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Ranking the 10 best Indian performers at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Dattu Bhokanal
Shankar Narayan

The 2016 Rio Olympics came to a close on Sunday, and needless to say it was a disappointing two-week period for India at the event, with many near-misses and close shaves and only two medals. However, there were quite a few performers who put a spirited show in their respective events.

Here's a look at India's best 10 performers at the Games:

10. Dattu Bhokanal

The only Indian rower to feature at the Rio Olympics, the story of Dattu Bhokanal was as inspiring on the waters of Rio as it was away from it. The young rower, appearing in his maiden Games, put forth a very commendable performance, to finish 1st in the ‘C’ finals of the Men’s Singles Sculls with a timing of 6:54.96.

Prior to that, he finished 4th in his heats to make it through to the quarterfinals, where he finished 15th. Bhokanal was second in the C/D Semifinal with a time of 7:19.02, which ensured he progressed through to the ‘C’ Single Sculls final.

His was a story that made everyone stand up and applaud and hopefully in the days to come, he can scale grander heights for India.

9. Atanu Das

Atanu Das

Like Bhokanal, Atanu Das was India’s only representative in the men’s Individual archery event. The 24-year-old showed a lot of promise from the outset, finishing 5th in the ranking round before defeating Jitbahadur Muktal of Nepal 6-0 and Adrian Puentas of Cuba 6-4 in the Round of 32. He eventually lost to Lee Seung-yun of South Korea by the same margin.

For someone who was competing in his maiden Olympics, it was a fantastic effort from Das. Along with the likes of Abhishek Verma, he will be expected to carry the fortunes of Men’s Singles archery on his shoulders in the coming years.

8. Lalita Babar

Lalita Babar

One of the shining lights of the Indian athletics contingent, Lalita Babar provided some much-needed cheer for India in the early days of the tournament. She excelled in the 3000m steeplechase with a respectable 10th place finish, with a timing of 9:22.74 in the final.

The 27-year-old athlete, who won the gold at the Asian Athletics Championships last year that sealed a Rio 2016 berth for her, finished her round in 7th place with a time of 9:19.76 and then battled hard in the final, despite having an injured knee that was swollen.

Athletics in India continues to remain a topic of concern as far as medals on the world stage is concerned. Hopefully, Lalita and Co. can turn the present scenario around in the future.

7. Vikash Krishan Yadav

Vikash Krishan Yadav

If there was a discipline whose strength in number disappointed everyone, it was boxing. Eight boxers represented India at the London Olympics but the contingent was less than half that size in Rio.

However, among the three who went to Brazil, Vikash Krishan Yadav was one of the two from whom there were expectations of coming home with a medal.

The boxer began on a positive note, beating Charles Conwell 3-0 in his Round of 32 bout. He then overcame Onder Sipa of Turkey in the Round of 16 to enter the quarterfinals with a lot of hope.

However, up against Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan, Yadav couldn’t quite bring his best to the table, losing 3-0 to bow out of the competition.

The reigning Asian Games champion will look to take positives from his maiden Olympic appearance and will hope to come back stronger at Tokyo 2020.

6. Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna

After losing out in the 1st round in the Men’s Doubles, Rohan Bopanna had another chance of winning a medal, this time teaming up with Sania Mirza in the Mixed Doubles. The duo began their campaign on a positive note, defeating the Australian pairing of Samantha Stosur and John Peers in straight sets 7-5 6-4 in the Round 1 stage before inflicting a 6-4 6-4 defeat on Andy Murray and Heather Watson of Great Britain.

With one more win assuring them of a medal, Mirza and Bopanna faced up against Rajeev Ram and Venus Williams in the semifinals and after winning the opening set 6-2, seemed in pole position to win. But the American pair made a strong comeback into the match, winning the second 6-2 and then clinching the match tiebreak 10-3 to book their place in the final.

The Indian duo had yet another opportunity to win a medal – a bronze – when they took on Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic. But courtesy a few service errors and missed opportunities, the Indian duo lost 1-6, 5-7, thereby settling for 4th place.

After the match, Mirza got emotional and even stated that she wasn’t sure whether she would feature in Tokyo 2020. For the sake of Indian tennis, let’s hope that she does do that and wins the elusive medal in Japan.

5. Kidambi Srikanth

Kidambi Srikanth

It is never for an athlete to deliver a medal in his maiden Olympic Games. Heading into Rio, Kidambi Srikanth was India’s sole challenger in men’s singles and had a lot of responsibility to carry on his shoulders in the absence of Parupalli Kashyap.

He began his campaign on a victorious note, beating Lino Munoz and Henri Hurskainen in straight games 21-11 21-17 and 21-6 21-18 respectively to move into the Round of 16 stage.

Employing an attacking game, the Indian defeated 5th seed Jan O Jorgenson 21-19 21-19 to move into the quarters. There, he went up against one of the best players of all time in Lin Dan and in a show of terrific fight, the Indian went down 6-21 21-11 21-17 to bow out.

The 23-year-old played a very aggressive game throughout and will look to use this performance as a catalyst to further enhance his performance in the future.

4. Abhinav Bindra

Abhinav Bindra

Not a lot was expected from Abhinav Bindra when he went to Rio to compete in his final Olympics. He had already announced that this would be his final competition and so there were some who hoped that he would finish on a high.

Competing on the third day in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle event, the 33-year-old put forth an impressive performance in qualification to finish in 7th place with a score of 625.7. In the final, the Indian once again rose to the occasion with a series of fine shots at the start. But with a few errors later on, he dropped down in the standings and eventually had to fight it out in a shoot off.

The Indian legend fired a 10.0 as compared to 10.5 by his opponent to take 4th place, and ended his career in agonising fashion.

3. Dipa Karmakar

Dipa Karmakar

Apart from the two medals that India won, if there was an athlete for whom this Olympics will be remembered, it would be Dipa Karmakar. The 23-year-old gymnast impressed everyone with her showing, to say the least.

Karmakar became the 1st Indian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic final, after putting forth a tally of 14.850 in the vault qualification that put her in 8th place and confirmed her spot in the final.

In the final, the Indian had some great company to beat and win a medal, and despite putting in her best effort, finished with a tally of 15. 066, 0.25 behind Giulia Steingruber who won bronze.

Despite that, however, Karmakar had found fans all over India with her showing and in Tokyo 2020, she will look to go one step ahead and win that medal which eluded her in Rio.

2. Sakshi Malik

Sakshi Malik

Like some of the other athletes on this list, Sakshi Malik was also competing in her maiden Olympics and so was looking to make a good first impression on the world stage.

She had a good start to the women’s 58kg freestyle competition, defeating Johanna Mattson 3-1 and then beating Mariana Cherdivara-Esanu by the same margin in the Round of 16.

She carried the form into the quarterfinal, defeating Orkhon Purevdoj 3-1 before beating Aisulu Tybybekova 3-1 in the bronze medal match to help India get off the mark in Rio.

Malik’s effort was vital for India for more than one reason as it ended the country’s long wait of 12 days to get off the blocks in the medal tally.

1. PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu

Without dispute, she was India’s best performer at Rio. PV Sindhu went into the competition as one of the dark horses from the Indian contingent, but at the end of the event, emerged as the brightest star, becoming the youngest Indian to win an individual Olympic medal and only the 5th female athlete to stand on the podium from India.

Her journey to that, however, was anything but simple. Sindhu defeated as many as three top 10 players including World No. 2 Wang Yihan in the quarters, and lost to World No. 1 Carolina Marin in the final in three tough games.

However, despite her final loss, Sindhu's silver medal winning feat will go down as one of India’s best performances in an Olympics and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for many upcoming shuttlers.

Edited by Staff Editor

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