Sports fans watching advertisements on Sony TV in which Bollywood superstars, Amitabh Bachan, Akshay Kumar, IOC member Neeta Ambani, Union law minister (till recently sports minister) Kiren Rijiju, sports minister Anurag Thakur, industrialist Sajjan Jindal, Gen. Bipin Rawat, and other luminaries are exhorting Indian sportspersons taking part in the Tokyo Olympics to “Go for Gold’.
They also inform the sportspersons that the whole country is behind them and praying for them and all they have to do is to have a shot at nothing less than Gold.
Now, obviously these celebrities are reading the script prepared by some bright kids of a PR company. They are also raising their fists, which they assert is their victory punch, shouting “Jai Hind” and in the process needlessly raising the expectations of millions of viewers.
So far so good! However, the problem arises that out of 18- disciplines India is participating, it has virtually no chance in 10 of them, and in two others it just has outside chances.
Notwithstanding these exhortations through the glamourised advertisements raise false hopes among the masses and put further pressure on the sportspersons.
Most Indian sportspersons going to Tokyo have barely qualified, meaning they just managed to make the cut by crossing the minimum standard set by the International Olympic Committee along with the International Sports Federation of that discipline.
In simple terms it is like securing 33 percent marks which help a student to pass ten plus two examinations but getting a seat in the college is almost ruled out as he is pitted against those who have 80 to 85 percent marks. Some of those 33 percent chaps do get college admission but in pass courses and that too through different quota systems.
With each passing Olympics size of the Indian contingent has grown and now at Tokyo India will be fielding its largest contingent so far.
Indians will be taking part in Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Equestrian, Fencing, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey (M/W) Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting, and Wrestling.
It would have been nice if the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) had not raised the expectations and had educated the fans that participation does not mean that Indian sportspersons are contenders or anywhere among the first eight in most of the disciplines.
Many sports experts had egg on their faces with their so-called authentic and authoritative predictions going haywire. Sports is full of glorious uncertainty. But to expect debutant fencer Bhavani Devi to be part of the glorious uncertainty folklore is making a mockery of this cliché.
Bhavani, whose mother Ramani Sudharararaman will accompany as a manager along with a coach and Psychologist, is still in a daze after being told that she made it to the Olympics and the Nation has been told to pray for her success.
Judoka Sudha Devi, Gymnast Pranati Nayak, horse rider Fouaad Mirza and four-member Table Tennis squad also is depending on the prayers of the millions back home.
As if it is not enough, Indians are also supposed to keep praying from 23rd July to 8th August for two Rowers, 4 sailors, three swimmers, and three golfers .and three tennis players.
Two golfers, Anirban Lahiri and Udayan Mane, got the tickets for Tokyo after two golfers dropped out. Three swimmers for the first time qualified after clocking the qualifying time in an international competition. We were immediately informed by the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) that it was a historic achievement. But the SFI did not tell us the difference between the qualifying time and what has been the minimum time of making it to the semi-finals in the Olympics.
India’s best showing at the Olympics has been in 2012 in London where the country won six medals – two silver and four bronze. The Rio Olympics was a big letdown as the country just managed two medals at the last stages of the games. One bronze by wrestler Sakshi Malik and a silver by shuttler PV Sindhu.
India’s realistic chances of the medal are in Shooting (15), Wrestling (7), Boxing (9), and Men’s hockey.
The country has a good chance in weightlifting provided Mirabai Chanu (48kg) is able to repeat her pre -Olympic performance in Tokyo. Archer Deepika Kumar and Shuttler PV Sindhu are also medal contenders.
In hockey (men) it will depend on where a team finishes in the pool. India’s making to the quarter-finals is considered “certainty”. They are in the pool along with New Zealand, Australia Spain Argentina, and Japan. The first four teams make it to the knock-out stage from this pool. It will be really a big upset if the eight-time winners fail to make it.
Another group is very tough as it includes World champion Belgium, Holland, Germany, Great Britain Canada and South Africa. The group placing is going to be very crucial as it will decide whom India will clash in the knock stage.
India’s best chance of medals is on the first day with shooters, Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary and weightlifter Mira Chanu, in action.
Twenty-five athletes will be representing the country in the track and field events and here again, Indian public will be asked to pray for their success.
In simple terms, India has good a chance of improving on the London medal count provided the shooters, boxers, wrestlers and the lone weightlifter repeat their pre-tournament performances.
Having said that there was no need for building such hype, as it is said let the sportspersons’ performance speak.
So let us pray for their success.
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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi