Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sushil Kumar - Olympics 2012

In a few hours from now - an Indian will create history in his homeland. Sushil Kumar will be the first native born Indian to win two individual Olympics medals.

That might not sound much to most nations around the World. In fact at last count at least 50 countries were ahead of India in the medal count at London 2012. But a generation of viewers will watch this exploit with a sigh of relief, despondency and hopefulness.

TV became popular and affordable in India during the 1982 Asian games. We watched India collect a record haul of 11 golds and then in the 1984 Olympics we watched PT Usha miss the Olympics bronze in the women 400 mts hurdles by the literal cat's whisker - 1/100th of sec. After that every 4 years we would dream of at least one medal in Olympics. In the meantime India's other Asian counterparts improved by leaps and bounds. China improved its tally from a handful of medals to scores, South Korea jumped ahead when it hosted the Games while Japan came down by quite a few notches from its dominant position in World and Asian sports.

India meanwhile hoped for a single medal.

Leander Paes changed the script by winning an improbable bronze medal in tennis in 1996. 4 years later an unknown lady wrestler from Andhra Pradesh, Karnam Malleswari won the bronze again - this time in weightlifting. A silver in shooting followed in 2004 when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore dorned the fig leaves in Greece. In 2008, India finally won an individual gold medal in Olympics. Abhinav Bindra won the gold and two more bonus medals came India's way - in shooting and wrestling. A country attuned to some "surprising" and "unexpected" medals - 3 medals didnt seem like an accident.

Was Indian sports finally looking up? Was there an organisational improvement. Had the supply chain improved drastically? London 2012 was to provide the answers.

London Olympics did provide the answers.

India does have a bevy of world class players in archery, shooting, boxing and hockey. But not nearly enough. While India may have 8 world class archers - China and South Korea probably have 80. The pressure thus put on those 8 archers have been tremendous. Some of the misses in archery were just limited to one bad arrow shoot. The case is similar for boxing and shooting too. While the shooters redeemed themselves with two medals - the much hyped male boxers failed in the quest.

And then there was history. An individual athlete from India - Sushil Kumar is to grace the podium twice. In a few hours from now Sushil will play his gold medal bout in the Men's 66kg Freestyle wrestling. This bout will renew the dreams of many and maybe encourage many more to take up sports. Sushil Kumar had won the bronze in the same event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. While it is too much to expect that the IOA will wake up - I expect many private organisations to provide sporting facilities and coaching.

Anyways long live the dream and GO For the Gold Sushil!

(Article posted at www.xomba.com by author)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Dont Blame the Indian Hockey Players - London 2012

There seems to be a lot of blaming going on - and the Indian Hockey team is bearing the brunt of it. It makes me angry when the pride of the players is being questioned. It was obvious to anyone that the players played from their gut and played their hearts out. They only looked dejected towards the end of the South Korean match and maybe some parts of the Belgium match. But that is understandable. When you are not winning things rapidly disintegrate and dejection sets in.

What clearly was lacking during the initial games was a stratagem. For example, the players seemed to believe that they could out flank and out- attack the Dutch in the first match. They carried on many pointless forays and seemed to be wasting a lot of energy, while the Dutch patiently played a mature game and set up well thought out attacks. The show clearly suggested 1000s of hours of careful planning and execution. The Indiam team seemed to be a bunch of talented hopefuls let loose on the field and each out to prove himself on the field. The things that were obviously missing to even a novice's eye were planning, thought, strategy, direction, preparation as a team, clear layout on how to score a goal, etc etc. I cant see how the players can be blamed for that! Inexperience showed and all class was hidden in the jumble of misguided efforts.

No, please put the blame where it lies. On the coach, management, team of decision makers. The players played with their hearts on their sleeves in difficult situations. And they lost to all good teams - not individual shows. Kudos to the players!