Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Guangzhou Asiad: India’s Olympic Dreams on Track

Giving plenty of visual feasts, with displays of splendour, grit and glory, curtains finally came down on the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou in China. With the successful conduct of the games, China once again proved to the world that they are second to none when it comes to playing hosts and organizing events of such magnitude. Obviously, they exhibited that the wide experience gained hosting the Olympics has not gone waste. It was an extravaganza of 15 days where strengths and sporting prowess were displayed, friendships built and strengthened and camaraderie relived. In fact, when 45 nations came together, on show was the multitude of plural vignettes: the continent encompassing within itself one-third of the global population, cradle of major faiths and various cultures…..in short, a mélange of human civilization meeting through their ambassador-the Sport Stars.

While their impeccable organizational capacities won all-round praise, the Chinese ensured that their dominance also extended into the sporting arena too. They were several notches higher than their continental competitors; not only in traditional strength areas but they could also make successful forays into new areas. Dominance showed in not only their pet and patented events like Badminton, Table Tennis, Gymnastics and Athletics, but also in events like Shooting, Chess, and a host of other games. The result of such dedicated forays and perseverance meant that the ended up with 199 Gold Medals out of a total 416 medals. The second placed South Korea could not even reach the half-way of that gold medal tally, finishing with 76 Golds only. It was complete domination and sprint from the Chinese from the start, completely unstoppable at all points in time. Unquestionable leaders at the top. Even in Cricket-the T20 version that made its debut in the Asiad-the Chinese were able to field teams in both men’s and women’s sections (Perhaps some food for thought for the people in the BCCI who run the game in our country, after refusing to send any team for the Games!!). Clearly, the Chinese stamped their wholesome authority in all disciplines at these Games.

Indian Performance:

Team India had come to these Games on the back of their glorious and stupendous performance in the Commonwealth Games at home, a few months back.  But that barometer broke in Guangzhou. After finishing Runners-Up in the medal tally in Delhi CWG, they were brought back to the earth by losing plots and gameplans going awry against the might of the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Iranians and Central Asian Republics. The Shooters, Wrestlers, Weight-Lifters and Shuttlers who reaped a rich haul in CWG, lost their way and disappointed. Perhaps, the major disappointment was from the shooting contingent, who were only saved a complete grimace by Ronjan Sodhi’s gold in Double-Trap. The Chinese imporved their tally greatly, grabbing a lion’s share of the medals in all events in this discipline. Saina Nehwal, who had promised much, also fell by the way-side. The grapplers and weight-lifters added to the listless performances. The Hockey team that lokked set for the Gold after clean-sweeping all the league games, fell to Malaysia in the semis, during extra-time.

However, such disappointments should not cloud over the other side of the story. Performances also picked up in many other fronts and these Games have become a milestone in India’s sports journey. Pocketing 14 golds, 17 silvers and 33 bronzes, India finished overall sixth in the medal tally. Pankaj Advani bagged his second consecutive English Billiards gold to open India’s Gold Rush. That Indian sport also ventured into unchartered territories reaping rich hauls became amply clear in Rowing. Throwing his oars with strength and speed, army man, Bajranglal Takhar conquered gold. Along with this, the investments made in this sport through hours and hours of practice in the backwaters of Kerala, fetched silver and bronnze medals in the team events.

Somdev Devvarman showed the world that there was life in Indian Tennis even after the Paes-Bhupati duo hangs their boots. In the absence of seniors, Somdev channeled all this energies and grit, to work through the Singles and Doubles. Making short work of the top seed Uzbek, Denis Istomin in the finals, he made history by being the first Indian to win an Asiad Singles Gold. He also teamed up with Sanam Singh to make it a golden double. He also proved that his singles gold at CWG was no fluke.

Perhaps, the most star rises in this Asiad for the country happened in the Track and Field. At the Aorti Main Stadium, India’s athletes left their marks, in what was the best Asian Games as far as Athletics was concerned. Bagging a total of 5 golds, 2 silvers and 4 bronzes, the contingent flew the tricolour high. What is more heartening is that 10 medals in athletics were won by women. Golds by Kerala girl Preeja Sreedharan in 10000m and Sudha Singh in 3000m Steeplechase opened the campaign on track. Another Golden Double came when both Ashwini Akkunji and Joseph Abraham won the race in 400m hurdles event. The final gold in track and field came through the quartert of Manjeet-Mandip Kaur, Sini Jose and Ashwini Akkunji in 4x400m relay. The Indian 4x400 relay quartets has made it a habit now in winning the yellow metal at the Asiad, with this being a hat-trick win. Count in the miss by Preeja for a double in 5000m, heart-break for Tintu Luka in 800m(settling for a bronze), and bronze for Krishna Poonia in women’s discus….Indian Athletics has really come of age and is now beginning to peak at the global stage.

After Beijing Olympics, the hallmark sport in the country has been without doubt, Boxing. The successors following the path of Vijender Singh have been countless, and the rise in the ring has been systematic. That trend was continued by the pugilists in this Asiad too. Some lost medals within striking distance; but on the whole, 9 boxers came close. Out of this, 5 made the finals and 4 had to be content with bronze. In the five finals, Vikas Krishan and Vijender hit the gold run, while three others lost out winning silvers. The haul of 2 golds, 3 silvers and 4 bronzes is yet another best for India in these games.

There were also impressive performances in other disciplines too. While the Men’s Kabbadi team kept its date with the gold, in the debut year for the women, Indian eves also did not disappoint and were crowned champions. Tarundeep Rai’s silver in archery, Virdhawal Khade’s bronze in 50m butterfly in swimming and Ashish Kumar’s bronze in Gymnastics are among them. In fact, Virdhawal and Ashish have age on their side, and are raring to go the distance in the coming years. Also, the sport of Wushu perfected by the Chinese, saw heart-warming performances by Sandhya Rani (Silver) and Bimoljit (Bronze). Medals were also won Sailing and Roller-Sports.

All these gains and results are the fruits of the constant training, proper regimen, and on the back of improved performances. The foreign training for the athletes and foreign coaches in boxing, have also helped a great deal. It also goes to what the best available modern technology, state aid and the open mind to accept new techniques can do for the Indian sporting arena.  Continuing with these resources and culling out the problem areas can definitely put India as multi-sport country rather than a ‘sole cricket’ based one. If these games have been the barometer or springboard for the London Olympics in 2012, then definitely one can say with great confidence that the Indian dreams are well-on track.

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