Can We Stop Complaining About Our Medals Tally at the Rio Olympics?
India. A country teeming with people. But a country that’s also struggling with poverty. And terrible sporting facilities. Compare that to the USA. Almost every average university has an athletics track. A swimming pool. A basketball court. Coaches. And terrific funding for sportspeople. Yes, they won 121 medals, totally. Yes, Michael Phelps’ medal tally puts him in the 39th spot, if he were a country.
But let’s stop and think about how India did. How we all rooted for Dipa Karmakar – the first Indian to reach an Olympics gymnastics final. How Sakshi Malik fought tirelessly to win her medal. How we all sat on the edges of our seats for PV Sindhu’s badminton final. None of that came easy for them. Dipa Karmakar literally risked a life-threatening spine injury every time she attempted the Produnova vault (Simone Biles, USA gymastic gold-medallist, actually told Dipa that the vault should be renamed after her, to the ‘Karmakar Vault’). PV Sindhu played World No. 1, Carolina Marin, from Spain, and fought till the very end of a thrilling three set final, before winning the silver medal. And Sakshi Malik had five bouts in the 58kg-freestyle wrestling category, all on the same day. Her bronze medal was a hard-fought one.
And there’s another thing about sports. We unfortunately give someone credit for their sporting achievements only if they come home with a medal. That’s really harsh. What about all the people who came fourth? Why are people giving Saina Nehwal a hard time? She had a knee injury. She STILL went out there and gave it her best. And let’s not forget, she made us proud at the London Olympics in 2012 with a bronze medal in the women’s badminton singles. Srikanth Kidambi also played a brilliant couple of matches, but unfortunately ran into the formidable World No. 3, Lin Dan, in the quarterfinals of the men’s badminton event. After two sets, they’d won a set each, and Kidambi went down fighting, losing the third set 18-21. As someone who was glued to the television during the Olympics, there were moments that really made me so, so proud. Take archery, for example. Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Atanu Das did really well to make it till the Round of 16 (there were times when it was raining and they still had to compete.) In the 3000m women’s steeplechase semifinal, Lalita Babar ran spectacularly to qualify for the finals, and rewrote the national record for her event, even after stumbling in the beginning of the race. She became the first Indian to reach an Olympic track final since 1984, when PT Usha placed fourth in the 400m hurdles final at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Lalita placed tenth in the finals of the event, which was filled with the world’s best athletes, from Bahrain, Kenya, USA and Ethiopia. Abhinav Bindra, gold-medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, placed fourth in the 10m air rifle event, this time. This man is something else altogether. He was the youngest Indian to take part in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. To be at the world-class level for so many years is brilliant.
Every sportsperson’s effort is something to be proud of. To even qualify for the Olympics is such a huge deal. Combine that with the most bureaucratic sports officials – Indian Olympians really need a round of applause. If we could stop grumbling on social media about the lack of medals, and maybe put ourselves in their shoes, just for a day, we’d realise what a good Olympics it’s been.
Ahalya Mandana (7th Semester, EEE)
Illustration by Keerthana Purushotham (1st sem, TCE)