India’s olympics story chasing glory, falling short


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Watching world no. 1 Yihang Wang
tame Saina Nehwal easily in the
semi-final, 21-13, 21-13 on Friday
morning, I remembered my conversation with
a chinese journalist in the Main press Centre a
few days ago.
“In diving, table tennis, badminton, we should
make a clean sweep,” he had said. The bronze medal for the women’s badminton is still to be decided and it is not beyond world no. 5 Saina to beat Li Xuerie, her opponent in the play-off
and ranked no. 4 in the world. But you get the point. China’s dominating in certain events has not become so pronounced and for so long that it has become a cliché in sports. Only very rarely does
a player from another country get to the number
1 spot— or top medals— in these disciplines.
The secret of this success, according to the Chinese journalist – is in spotting and developing
excellence from a massive base of players.
The secret of this success, according to the Chinese journalist – is in spotting and developing excellence from a massive base of players. The Chinese too have a pyramidical system for sports, but they have spread the dragnet for capturing talent further and wider than in any other country. They use the hub and spoke model through which talent is spotted in the remotest districts, then fed through a pipeline into sports academies in major cities, and from there on to a pool of elite athletes who are trained to excel at major international events. I suppose in some way or the other all countries follow such processes, except that the Chinese have done this with a vigour and diligence. Some argue that this is done dictatorially— that has seen them assume dominant position in sports over the past decade.
Beginning with ‘ping-pong’ and badminton in the 1980s when they emerged from self-imposed exile from participating in international
sports events, the Chinese have expanded their expertise to include diving, swimming and gymnastics. Though track and field and the swimming pool is still ruled by the Americans, it seems a cinch that by the 2020 Olympics, the Chinese would be nudging them for top honours in these disciplines

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India’s olympics story chasing glory, falling short

  1. 1. India’s olympics storychasing glory, falling short
  2. 2. a disappointing performanceIndia falls short of commitment, discipline and ambition 04Indian Olympic team is an outperformer 06Madhura incident: Why don’t our officials fret over results instead 08Is India too old for the Olympics? 10How Abhinav Bindra wins by losing 12 Indias Best: Vijay Kumar Silver medal, 25m rapid fire pistolVijay Kumar was ready for the Olympics and he knew it 16Olympics: Vijay bags India’s second medal in London 18Vijay promised me a medal, says father 19 Gagan Narang Bronze medal, 10m air rifleMy mom wasn’t happy with bronze, she wanted me to win gold: Narang 21Gagan Narang’s spoils of victory 24Olympics: Gagan Narang wins 10m Air Rifle bronze 25 Saina Nehwal Bronze medal, Women’s Singles, badmintonWhy Saina’s Olympic triumph is just the beginning 27London 2012: Saina’s moment but it’s time to salute Gopichand 30Gopichand’s belief: Want a champion, forget democracy 32How Saina overcame her shortcomings to win an Olympic medal 34 Mary Kom Bronze medal, Women’s boxing (51kg)Educating Indians: There’s something about Mary Kom 37Olympics: It’s finally Mary Kom’s day to shine 40Emotional win for me as it is my twins’ birthday: Mary Kom 41Of Mary Kom, Manipur, Olympics and curiosity 43India (hearts) Mary Kom. But do we deserve her? 44
  3. 3. a disappointing performance
  4. 4. India falls short of commitment,discipline and ambition Ayaz Memon is in London giving us updates from the Olympics. Keep checking here for more. In his latest post, he talks about how China hone their Olympic champions. Ayaz Memon, Aug 3, 2012W atching world no. 1 Yihang Wang to beat Li Xuerie, her opponent in the play-off tame Saina Nehwal easily in the and ranked no. 4 in the world. But you get the semi-final, 21-13, 21-13 on Friday point.morning, I remembered my conversation witha chinese journalist in the Main press Centre a China’s dominating in certain events has not be-few days ago. come so pronounced and for so long that it has become a cliché in sports. Only very rarely does“In diving, table tennis, badminton, we should a player from another country get to the numbermake a clean sweep,” he had said. The bronze 1 spot— or top medals— in these disciplines.medal for the women’s badminton is still to bedecided and it is not beyond world no. 5 Saina The secret of this success, according to the
  5. 5. Chinese journalist – is in spotting and develop- “The strategy is to produce champions in biging excellence from a massive base of players. numbers,” says the Chinese journalist. “At anyReuters given point in time, there will be three or four players in TT, badminton, diving etc who mustThe secret of this success, according to the be capable of winning a gold medal.”Chinese journalist – is in spotting and develop-ing excellence from a massive base of players. The strategy may seem simple. But it is theThe Chinese too have a pyramidical system for implantation that is the crux. It requires com-sports, but they have spread the dragnet for mitment, discipline and ambition – not just ofcapturing talent further and wider than in any athletes, but the entire country. This is some-other country. thing where India falls terribly short.They use the hub and spoke model through But that story for another day.which talent is spotted in the remotest districts,then fed through a pipeline into sports acad- ****** ****** ******emies in major cities, and from there on to a India’s hopes of making it to the semif-finals inpool of elite athletes who are trained to excel at hockey were dashed by Germany in emphaticmajor international events. fashion.I suppose in some way or the other all countries Not that these hopes had much basis in real-follow such processes, except that the Chinese ity: after losing to Netherlands and even Newhave done this with a vigour and diligence. Zealand, chances of finishing in the top six tooSome argue that this is done dictatorially— that seemed remote. But after the rout by Germany,has seen them assume dominant position in India are now in danger of finishing 10 or be-sports over the past decade. low.Beginning with ‘ping-pong’ and badminton in This would be a major blow to coach Michaelthe 1980s when they emerged from self-im- Nobbs, who has been talking of reviving Indianposed exile from participating in international hockey within a reasonable time frame. Nobbssports events, the Chinese have expanded their did well in ensuring that India qualified for theexpertise to include diving, swimming and gym- Olympics, but a very low position here wouldnastics. mean that it’s virtually back to square one.Though track and field and the swimming pool The coach himself has looked and talked somb-is still ruled by the Americans, it seems a cinch er. “I don’t know if I am getting through to thethat by the 2020 Olympics, the Chinese would players about tactics and whatever else,” hebe nudging them for top honours in these disci- mused after the defeat against New Zealand.plines too. That sounds foreboding.
  6. 6. Indian Olympic team isan outperformer Strange, but true. As things stand this morning, India is one of the most efficient teams at the London 2012 Olympics when the performance is viewed as a ratio of medals won to the contingent size. Read how. Anant Rangaswami, Jul 31, 2012S trange, but true. As things stand this The BBC exercise is interesting as it could well morning, India is one of the most effi- be used as a measure of the efficiency of those cient teams at the London 2012 Olympics involved in the selection of national contingentswhen the performance is viewed as a ratio of for the Olympic Games. If the selection process-medals won to the contingent size. es are fair and professional and unaffected by politics and personal biases, the ratio of medals: athletes is likely to reflect that. So far, North Korea seems, clearly, to have got their team selection correct. With their team being only 56 strong, another couple of medals will see the dictatorship move to an unassailable medal to participant ratio. For Japan, for ex- ample, to outdo North Korea, they will have to almost match their 2008 performance and win 22 medals. But with another medal North Korea will see the ratio move to 9 percent. For Japan to beat that, they will have to outdo 2008 and win atNorth Korea, with four medals so far, has a least 27 medals.contingent size of 56, making it 7 percent, thesuper-outperformer of the Games. China is the China, with 396 athletes and USA, with 530next most efficient, with 24 medals won by their athletes, though, will top this table as well. In389 strong Olympic team, a medal winning rate 2008, China won 100 medals and the USA 110.of 6 percent. Japan, with 17 medals won by their If the squads were similar in size in 2008, China303 participants, is also at 6 percent. would have had an efficiency of more than 25 percent and the USA would have been just overThe Indian 84-member team, with the win 20 Gagan Narang, is already at a little over 1percent. A couple of more medals (we won 3 But India might just make it to the top ten if wein 2008) will see this ratio fly to 3.7 percent — win four medals — it would take us to 5 percent,and, incredibly, India could emerge as one of just a tad below Japan’s current ratio.the best performing contingents at the London2012 when seen by this prism. Useless stats, maybe, but they make India look good.Details of this, and other fascinating trivia, canbe read at
  7. 7. Why Indians are unrealisticin expecting medals at Olympics What’s needed for us to excel at the Olympics is some serious equality in interest levels shown not just by the general public and the media but also the sporting federations. Shashreek Roy, Aug 2, 2012T he London Olympics, much like the the way things function. Interest levels for most ones in the past, has caught on with sports other than cricket, in India, is almost ob- much fervour in India and has left the solete, and waning interest will always generategeneral public in awe of its neighbouring na- woeful results.tion. Sadly, it has also left a large portion of thegeneral public in a state of dismay over the lack In India, there’s this bizarre concept of “cricketof medals in India’s tally. The real issue here is is hogging all the limelight so it must be ig-not that of India’s inability to rake in the med- nored for the other sports to be able to thrive.”als, but the fact that spectators and viewers tune Hang on, the United States of America does notin just once in four years and expect the Indian ignore the NBA, NFL and its baseball leaguecontingent to produce a bunch of rather unreal- in order to win all those medals at the Olym-istic results. What happens in the period before pics. Football is the biggest sport in the Unitedand after the Olympics, simply disappears into Kingdom, but they do not shun it away to win aoblivion. gold medal in rowing. Countries do not neglect one sport in order to succeed in another, they simply collectively thrive on the success of each sport. There’s no reason to banish cricket, but what’s needed is some serious equality in inter- est levels shown not just by the general public and the media but also the sporting federations. Perhaps it is time that other sporting bodies are subject to the same amount of pressure that the BCCI undergoes from the general public. For now, India’s public needs to be patient and realistic. There needs to be a clear understand- ing of what India can achieve at its current posi- tion and there has to be some sense of apprecia-For starters, there’s always a comparison drawn tion for those achievements. As an example it isbetween the Chinese way of administrating important to laud Gagan Narang for that bronzesports and the Indian method. A lot of muck is medal, rather than whine about him missinggenerally hurled at the current Indian system, out on the gold. The answer to Narang baggingbut this is done only when India’s sporting bronze and Abhinav Bindra not making it pastcontingent either don’t qualify for the Olympics the qualifications, is encapsulated in the fouror don’t manage to bag medals. Sure enough years prior to the event. That time span unfor-the current systems in place aren’t the best and tunately probably went completely’s about time that they improve, but for thatto happen there needs to be constant interest India still has a decent amount of fire powerin those sports. If people don’t bother about the at the Olympics and it may well bring in somescenario of sports in India for more than a span more medals through badminton, tennis andof just 17 days, then the men running the sport boxing. What’s important though, is that peopleare never don’t forget that these sports still exist after thegoing to be under any sort of pressure to change closing ceremony.
  8. 8. Madhura incident: Why don’t ourofficials fret over results instead If there is one thing Indian officials are good at, it is being officious and expressing outrage over faux controversies. Why don’t our officials lose sleep over our poor performance instead? Tariq Engineer, Aug 1, 2012I f a tree falls in a forest and there is no was out of the ordinary. there to hear it, does it still make a noise? If an unknown woman walks alongside the Unfortunately, if there is one thing IndianIndian contingent during the Olympic opening officials are good at, it is being officious andceremony and nobody complains, would anyone expressing outrage over faux controversies. Act-have noticed? ing Chef-de-Mission Brig PK Muralidharan Raja was quick to make it clear that a terrible dishon-I watched the opening ceremony and have no our had somehow been perpetrated. “She hadrecollection of Madhura Honey aka the mystery no business to walk with the Indian contingentwoman. My attention was drawn first to Sushil and we are taking up the issue with the organ-Kumar holding the Indian flag and then to the isers,” Raja said on Saturday. “We don’t knowrest of the athletes. She never entered my con- who she is and why she was allowed to walk in.sciousness. And even if she had, there would It is a shame that she was with the athletes instill have been no reason to suspect anything the march past.”
  9. 9. The real shame is that Raja’s response resulted one Olympic record. In contrast, India’s lonein attention being drawn away from those same swimmer, Gagan AP Ulalmath, is only part ofathletes and exemplifies all that is wrong with the competition because of FINA’s universalitythe attitude of Indian officials: appearances quota: a country that would otherwise be un-are everything; results are nothing. There have represented at the Olympics can enter one malebeen years when the Indian contingent was and one female swimmer, with the conditionmade up of more officials than athletes, but that that the swimmers should have taken part in thenever seemed to bother anyone. Neither did last World Championships.India’s lack of results. When Leander Paes wona bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, it was The 20-year-old Ulalmath competed in thethe end of a 44-year individual medal drought. 800m freestyle at the 2011 World Champion-Where was the outrage then? ships in Shanghai, but will take part in 1500m freestyle in London. Essentially, and this is notAnd where is the outrage now over India’s poor meant to disrespect Gagan, his is a token pres-start to the Games? The anticipation and expec- cence. Yet our officials feel no shame over thistation for London have been unprecedented in state of affairs. It is just business as usual. As ifthe sub-continent. Much ink has been spilled on that isn’t bad enough, the Indian Olympic Asso-how 2012 could end with India’s best ever med- ciation is yet to formally remove Suresh Kal-al haul. While that may still turn out to be true, madi as it president, despite Kalmadi’s arrest onfour days in, India have only Gagan Narang’s charges of fraud related to the Commonwealthshooting bronze to show for its efforts. Yet more Games. Apparently that does not bring dishon-time and effort has been spent on unravelling our to Indian sport.the mystery of Honey than on analysing theperformances of our athletes. Meanwhile China The London Organising Committee of thealready has 23 medals (including 13 gold) tied Olympic and Paralympic Games, or LOCOG asfor first with the United States. its commonly known, apologised to the Indian contingent yesterday for Honey’s presence. TheTwo of those golds have come courtesy of more important question is when are thoseChina’s 16-year old swimming wunderkind, responsible for running Indian sports going toYe Shiwen, who has set one world record and apologise for the way they have mismanaged it?
  10. 10. Is India too old forthe Olympics? For India to win regularly at the Olympics, we need to go back into time and learn a few lessons from Abhimanyu. The others are doing it, so why can’t we? Ashish Magotra, Jul 31, 2012A s children, we’ve all heard the tale of complete his explanation. Arjun’s son Abhimanyu – from the Ma- habharata. But still it was an early beginning. And we are noticing at the London 2012 Olympics that anThe most fascinating part of the story was the early beginning helps. Last night, Lithuanianpart which described how Abhimanyu’s edu- teenager, just 15 years old, Ruta Meilutyte stolecation began while he was still in Subhadra’s the pool headlines as she won her country’s firstwomb. He overhead Arjuna telling Subhadra Olympic swimming gold in the women’s 100the secrets of how to enter, exit, and destroy metres breaststroke.various battle formations. Of these, it is of note,that he only heard how to enter (but not exit or She wasn’t the only teenager making waves indestroy) the secret of the Chakravyuh formation the pool. Missy Franklin, of the US, is just 17as Subhadra fell asleep and thus Arjuna didn’t and she won the 100-meter backstroke. China’s
  11. 11. Ye Shinwen is just 16 and she is already setting - Leander Paes turned professional in 1991 – atthe pool on fire and has broken a world record the age of 18. Before that he won the Junior USalready. Sun Yang, 19, became the first Chinese Open and the Junior Wimbledon title.male swimmer to earn gold as he won the 400m - At 15, Abhinav Bindra became the youngestfreestyle with an Olympic record. participant in the 1998 Commonwealth Games.Some might say, that it is in just the swimming At 15, Meilutyte is winning gold medals whileevents. But have a look at the weightlifting most Indians are just thinking about passingevents. China’s Wang Mingjuan extended a 10- 10th standard – including those who are talent-year unbeaten international record to win gold ed in sports and are competing at the nationalin the first women’s weightlifting event of the level. And by the time, we become any good weLondon Summer Olympics, giving the Chinese are 25-plus giving us a very short window inteam a perfect start at the Games. which we have to succeed.Mingjuan is 26 now. Her unbeaten run started But to succeed at the highest level, to matchwhen she was 16. Incredible isn’t it? China or the US or any other major medal- winning country – the mindset needs to change.Tom Daley, one of Britain’s biggest Olympic We complain about the infrastructure and thestars, was the 2009 FINA World Champion in lack of it but how many parents are prepared tothe individual diving event at the age of 15. back their child’s athletic talent? India’s failure to win a ton of medals is as much the fault of theThe runners begin early too. Usain Bolt won a parents as it is of the athletes.200 m gold medal at the 2002 World JuniorChampionships, making him the competition’s All those stories of Indians maturing late isyoungest-ever gold medalist at the time. He also nonsense. The list of athletes above have showncompeted in the 2004 Olympics at the age of 18. us that. And if you look at cricket – the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have alsoThe list really is endless. The whole point of this shown the world what ‘young’ Indians can do.argument is simple. You just have to start early. So let’s not go down this rule.And Indians don’t do that often enough. On paper, India may have the youngest popula-India’s best bets at the Olympics are Saina tion of the world’s biggest countries but doesNehwal, Deepika Kumari, Sania Mirza-Leander that reflect in the way we play sport? It does inPaes, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Abhinav cricket and hence, we do decently at it. But withBindra – and the one common thread that other sports, most of the time – Indians areruns through all of them is that they all started trying to find the right balance between successyoung. and failure. The question on the minds of most of the athletes is this: What will I do if I fail?- By the time, Saina was 13, she was beatingplayers who were 23-24. So because you want something to fall back on,- Deepika Kumari won the 11th Youth World you put your dreams on hold. You deviate andarchery Championship held in Ogden, USA in that deviation often means that you never quite2009, at an age of 15 years. She also won a gold get back onto the right path. A few persist andmedal in the same competition in the women’s they do well but they will always remain theteam recurve event along with Dola Banerjee exception and not the rule.and Bombayala Devi.- Sania Mirza made her debut in April 2001 on For India to win regularly at the Olympics, wethe ITF Circuit as a 15-year-old. need to go back into time and learn a few les-- Mary Kom, by the age of 18, had won a silver sons from Abhimanyu. The others are doing it,in her first AIBA World Women’s Boxing Cham- so why can’t we?pionship in Scranton, USA.- Vijender Singh, 27, has already competed inthree Olympics.
  12. 12. How Abhinav Bindrawins by losing Abhinav Bindra won’t get another Olympics medal in London this time. But he deserves a medal from all of us for showing us how to lose with grace. We need to learn that more than we need to learn about winning. Sandip Roy, Jul 31, 2012S ometimes you can win by losing. thing from Abhinav Bindra about how not to be a sore loser. The nation, led by Pranab Mukherjee, iscongratulating Gagan Narang for picking up the The hullabaloo of over-excited Indian fans was afirst medal for India at the Olympics game and big distraction for the defending champion. Butdeservedly so. he didn’t blame anyone. “This was not my day,” he said simply. “I started slowly and that was aBut let’s take a moment to congratulate Abhinav lot of pressure. It was a highly competitive field,Bindra. my performances went up and down.”After winning a gold in Beijing, India’s 10 m Air That doesn’t mean Bindra does not have the fireRifle sharpshooter didn’t even qualify for the to win or feel the sting of losing keenly.finals this time around. In an earlier interview with The Telegraph heBut in a country hungry for medals, in a nation had said, “Nobody wants to fail, yet it happens.obsessed with winning, we can all learn some- That’s life.”
  13. 13. At that time, London had not happened. So one But one Abhinav Bindra victory pumps us up tocould say it was easy for him to wax philosophi- the other extreme so that even before this Olym-cal. But in his defeat he showed he truly believes pic team set out for London, confident punditsthat losing is also part of the game. “Time was in India were predicting this would be India’srunning out and I had to take some risks,” he biggest medal haul yet as if one boxer and onesaid simply. “You need a little luck for some shooter had discovered the secret key to un-shots and unfortunately I didn’t get it.” ending victory. One victory just whets the ap- petite for more and more, making us even moreIt’s not a lesson that comes easy to us. Our unforgiving of loss. When the Indian cricket24×7 media culture is all about the winner takes team floundered against Australia this year,it all, the loser standing small. Ad deals, red the World Cup win less than a year before wascarpets, flash bulbs, Page 3 gossip — winning is no consolation. Headlines screamed “Humili-heady business. But it makes losing all the more ation” and “Smashed to Pulp” and angry fanslonely these days. It’s like going cold turkey presented them with bangles. We were happyafter the high. to shower endorsements on Dhoni and his men and lionise them after that World Cup victory,The loser “becomes invisible” said artist Sarnath only to turn around and accuse them of havingBanerjee who did a series of billboards celebrat- gone “soft” because of all that losers for the London Olympics — the polevaulter who wonders mid-air if he has chosen We are merciless towards the loser and happythe wrong sport or the badminton player who to quickly designate yesterday’s winner today’sfinds his real vocation in a cholesterol clinic in loser whether it’s Anna Hazare or Shah RukhSouth Bombay. Khan or Akhilesh Yadav. On the lighter side, one of Sarnath Banerjee’s cartoons is about howBanerjee said there is something called a “los- the memory of a missed bronze can bring abouter’s spirit” not to be confused with someone a bad mood even after twenty years. On a bleak-who is just used to losing all the time and has er note, after every school leaving examinationno spirit at all. “It is perhaps more humane than we read about youngsters who commit suicidethe winner’s spirit and definitely not as vulgar because they failed or even worse they didn’t doas the ‘killer instinct’. It needs sophistication — as well as they had hoped. Recently there was aand sophistication is fragile,” Banerjee told The media story about one young man in CalcuttaTimes of India. who logged into his best friend’s email account and rejected various Ph.D offers his friend hadIn India, these days, we are a nation in desper- received from foreign universities because heate search for the killer instinct. We buy shrink- was jealous of his success. “A combination ofwrapped books to learn it and go to seminars two strong feelings — an intense sense of inse-headed by pony-tailed management gurus to curity and jealousy — could prompt someoneimbibe it. We once pushed, pushed and then to indulge in such an act,” psychiatrist Randippushed our children some more to get into IIT Ghosh Roy told the media.or med school. Now our horizons are bigger andour ambitions are bigger as well. We don’t know how to cope with losing because we are obsessed with winning.“It’s a good achievement,” said bronze medal-ist Gagan Narang’s father after his son’s win. “People look at things from the point of view of“Although we expected a gold.” Narang has two a win and loss… But overall sports is a differentmore chances for a gold, and his father said story,” Bindra said.when his son called from London he would“congratulate him and tell him to do well in the And Bindra showed us that he is a sportsmannext two events.” first, before he is a winner. And that’s a lesson we would all do well to learn because you don’tBut in the gold rush we forget that for years we have to play sports to be a sportsman.didn’t win anything. We’d become a nation usedto being a laughing stock of the sporting world.
  14. 14. Indias Best:
  15. 15. Vijay Kumar Silver medal,25m rapid fire pistol
  16. 16. Vijay Kumar was ready forthe Olympics and he knew it As soon as he grabs his pistol, the soft-spoken, mellow and mysterious aura is gone. Cut to the army subedar looking ominously at his targets before smashing them in a consistent fashion. Pulasta Dhar, Aug 3, 2012F or someone who is a double gold medal- he was one who gave the little details impor- list at the Commonwealth Games 2006, tance. A friendly chat is always a pleasure for a bronze medallist at the Asian Games any journalist. Not only was he unfazed with2006, runner-up at the Asian Championships in all the glaring lights and cameras, but with2007, silver medallist at the 2009 ISSF World that small gesture I was suddenly speaking to aCup and an Arjuna Award recipient, Vijay Ku- friend, not a future Olympic medallist. It mademar comes across as the most chilled out and me forget the lights, my slight inexperience anddown-to-earth person. the constantly barging in by the TV mics.The moment he had his hand wrapped around But as soon as he grabs his pistol, the soft-spo-my shoulder while speaking to me at an Olym- ken, mellow and mysterious aura is gone. Cutpic Gold Quest press conference, I realised that to the army subedar looking ominously at his
  17. 17. “Vijay is joint 1sttargets before smashing them in a consistent fashion. after first series”“I understand expectation on shooters is always high,” hesaid, “but we are mentally well prepared for the Olympics.” “Vijay Kumar is in jointAnd that is what won him a silver medal at the highest stage.Vijay Kumar kept his nerve when the Chinese shooters andGermany’s Christian Reitz were knocked out in a close final ofthe 25m Rapid Fire Pistol in London. first with 5 points afterActually, he had guessed that Russia and Germany will be the the first round. Alexeitoughest opponents, and thankfully, both of them lost out.He may have been wrong there, but shooting is all about what Klimov, the world recordsort of day you have… and Kumar had an amazing one. holder, also shot 5. ThereOne thing which stood out during the interview was the fre-quency of him talking about ‘mental strength’. are a total of 8 rounds.”“I am concentrating more on mental strength in respect to thenew format. We don’t just keep shooting all day, but we need “Vijay is joint 2nd after five series ”to do a lot of yoga and other concentration exercises to keepgoing.”He also spoke about how surroundings matter for a shooter.“The correct atmosphere is vital for a shooter to develop. Be-ing in the army has helped me a lot.” “Ding missed one. Pupo missed one as well. VijayKumar, who is 27-years-old, held a gun in his hands for thefirst time in 2003 i.e. when he was an 18-year-old. missed one as well. He isGiven that, he has ‘rapidly’ (pun intended) developed into a still in silver medal posi-fine shooter and has accomplished what every Indian athletedreams of: an Olympic medal. tion. Pupo 22 points. Ding and Vijay are 20 points.He probably spoke the least among all athletes present there,and has — for now, achieved the most. Zhang Jian eliminated – he had 17 points.” “Vijay gets the silver”“Pupo gets the gold – equalled the finals world record. VijayKumar gets the silver… he hit just two in the final round buthe has the silver. That’s India’s second medal of the games.Pupo ended up with 34 and Vijay shot 28. Super, super stuff.”
  18. 18. Olympics: Vijay bags India’ssecond medal in London Army marksman Vijay Kumar gave India the second medal from the Royal Artillery Barracks winning the silver in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol. FP Staff, Aug 3, 2012A rmy marksman Vijay Kumar gave India Russia’s Alexei Klimov had set a new world the second medal from the Royal Artil- record of 592 in qualifying, but struggled in the lery Barracks winning the silver in the final after two low-scoring rounds early on, andmen’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol event of the eventually finished fourth after failing to make2012 London Olympics here Friday. it into the final two medal rounds.Leuris Pupo kept his cool to win Cuba’s first India’s rifle shooter Gagan Narang had won thegold of the Olympics. Pupo scored 34 to edge bronze medal in the men’s 10 metre air rifleout India’s Vijay Kumar, who took silver with event here Monday.30. Vijay is also the second Indian after double trapChina’s Ding Feng won bronze after being edged shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to win anout by Kumar by one point in the final elimina- Olympic silver medal. Rathore won the maidention round at the Royal Artillery Barracks. Olympic silver for India in 2004 Athens.
  19. 19. Vijay promised mea medal, says father Army marksman Vijay Kumar gave India the second medal from the Royal Artillery Barracks winning the silver in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol. FP Staff, Aug 3, 2012F ather of India’s Olympic silver medallist Serving as a Subedar in the Indian army, Vijay Vijay Kumar said his son had promised took up shooting in 2001 and his father said he him a medal before he went into the fi- never expected his son to reach such heights.nals of the 25-metre rapid fire pistol event at theLondon Games here Friday. “I never thought he would reach this level. My happiness has no bounds,” he said. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal also announced a reward of Rs.1 crore for the shooter minutes after his podium finish. Joydeep Karmakar, who himself came tantalis- ingly close to a podium finish before settling for fourth place in the men’s 50 metres rifle prone, said their show in London proved the great po- tential India had in the sport. “This is a proud moment for our shooters. He has proved that India has a great talented bunch of shooters,” said Joydeep, who is also a goodCuban Leuris Pupo kept his cool to win his friend of’s first gold of the Olympics. Pupo shot34 to edge out India’s Vijay Kumar, who took India’s rifle shooter Gagan Narang won thesilver with 30. bronze medal in the men’s 10 metre air rifle event here Monday.“I spoke to him before the finals and he soundedcalm. He told me he will get a medal today. He Vijay is also the second Indian after double trapwas not sure which one but he said he will get shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to win anone for sure,” said Vijay’s father. Olympic silver medal. Rathore won the maiden Olympic silver for India in the 2004 Athens.“His hard work has finally paid off. I was certainhe would get a medal.”
  20. 20. Gagan Narang Bronze medal, 10m air rifle
  21. 21. My mom wasn’t happy with bronze,she wanted me to win gold: Narang Reliving his experience during his medal-winning endeavour, Narang said, “I felt a tad bit nervous. Hence, I started half an hour late. My coach made me play a ‘secret’ game on his iPad. I stepped back from my mark, relaxed, and checked everything before shooting again.” PTI, Aug 8, 2012P une: London Olympics bronze medal- Olympian Rahi Sarnobat and her parents were list Gagan Narang today said that sports also felicitated on the occasion. should be made a part of school curricu-lum and asked others states to take a leaf out Praising the two governments for promotingof Maharashtra and Haryana’s books as far as sports, Narang said that Haryana and Mahar-promoting sport was concerned. ashtra were an example to the other states and they should also imitate their efforts and de-“Sport is an important part of the development velop infrastructure.of kids and hence, it should be made a part oftheir curriculum,” Narang said at a felicitation Heaping praise on the national coaches and rifleceremony here after arriving from London. coach Stanislas Lapidus, he said that it wouldNarang was felicitated at the ‘Gun for Glory’ not have been possible for him to win the medalacademy by Maharashtra Sports and Youth without their support.Welfare Minister Padmakar Valvi. The former world champion said that it was
  22. 22. “Narang beginspossible for India to take long strides in shooting providedthe youngsters are given proper guidance and get continuous with a 10.7”support from the government.Narang’s parents were also felicitated on the occasion. “After one shot,Narang said that his mother was not happy with his bronzemedal. “She wanted me to win the gold medal. I hope to fulfillher wish in the future.”Narang wants Mary Kom to add to India’s haul with the gold Narang is in second place with 608.7. Onlymedal now. “I met her in London and she sounded very confi-dent. I hope that she brings the yellow medal for all of us.”Reliving his experience during his medal-winning endeavour, behind MOLDOVEANUhe said, “I felt a tad bit nervous. Hence, I started half an hourlate. My coach made me play a ‘secret’ game on his iPad. I Alin George. He shot astepped back from my mark, relaxed, and checked everything 10.7.”before shooting again.“I was really pleased at having qualified for the finals. A huge “Narang shootsweight off my shoulders. In the finals, I was lucky enough tohold my nerves and shoot 10.7 in the last shot when I needed10.2 to win the bronze medal.Thanking the government of India for having spent consid- a 10.6 with third shot”erably on the shooters, the champion said, “Shooting is anexpensive game. Not everyone can afford it. With the activeinvolvement of the government we can produce more medalwinners.Praising India’s performance in the ongoing Olympics, hesaid that there is no reason why the country can’t become asporting powerhouse. “Narang in third place now. He has 629“It is a gradual process. Sporting culture is needed wheremarks are given to students for sports in schools, jobs are points. MOLDOVEANUassured for sportsperson and sponsors are willing to supportthem through rough times. Alin George is in first“We have picked momentum and are moving in the right di- place with 629.9.”rection. It began with RVS Rathore’s silver in Athens, Bind-ra’s gold and two bronze in Beijing and four medals here. It is “Tenth shot,an encouraging sign.”He felt that the medals should inspire the athletes and theyshould strive to achieve better results in the future.Commenting on the impact of sports, he said: “One thing thattakes the country forward without war is sports.” 10.7, BronzeNarang was given a rousing welcome on arrival here. medal”
  23. 23. “Wow. India finally have a medal. It took a bit. Can we some-how get a gold at London 2012? This is a good start. Ourshooters have set the ball rolling. We are proud of youGagan.” Watch Video
  24. 24. Gagan Narang’s spoils of victory FP Staff, Jul 31, 2012S hooter Gagan Narang provided the spark Even though Narang does not belong to Har- to India’s Olympic campaign by clinching yana, he has been given the reward under the the bronze medal in the Men’s 10m air category of sportspersons from the state as hisrifle event on Monday. family roots are from the northern state.By giving the country its first medal in the cur- Ajay Maken offers him top jobrent Olympics, 29-year-old Narang lived uptoexpectations to claim the bronze, the third Sports Minister Ajay Maken announced that theshooting medal in India’s Olympic history. ace marksman will be offered a job as a Group A employee in the Sports Authority of India,As soon as the news broke, Narang was reward- which is equivalent to an IAS officer.ed by state governements and the sports minis-ter. Surely more rewards will follow. “Had it not been for one shot, Gagan could have won the gold as well. All these OlympiansHere are the rewards that Narang has won: whether they win a medal or not would be pro- vided an officer grade job with the SAI. “A medal winner will straight away be promoted as Group A employee which is an IAS officer rank. So Gagan can be an IAS officer,” Maken told reporters outside the Royal Artillery Bar- racks where Narang opened India’s account in the medals tally. Sahara India to give 2 kg of gold Corporate major, Sahara India will give Narang 2 kg of gold. Sahara has announced to reward the IndianAndhra Pradesh government rewards athletes with gold, who will manage to clinch ahim Rs 50 lakh. medal at the London Olympics. Sahara will be awarding a 5 kg medal of gold to athletes win-Andhra Pradesh government today announced ning gold medals, 3 kg to silver medallists and 2a Rs 50 lakh cash incentive to the Indian shoot- kg to bronze medallists The state government had so far given cashincentives to the tune of Rs 1 crore and 91.5lakh to Narang for winning medals in variousinternational sporting events like Asian Games(2010), Commonwealth Games (2010) etc, arelease from the Chief Minister’s Office said.Haryana Government gives him Rs 1croreThe Haryana government Monday announced areward of Rs 1 crore for Narang.
  25. 25. Olympics: Gagan Narangwins 10m Air Rifle bronze FP Staff, Jul 30, 2012G agan Narang has provided India its first However, he slipped a bit and had to fight for medal of the 2012 London Olympics, the bronze medal with China’s Wang Tao who winning the bronze medal in the 10m finished fourth with 700.4. After returning poorAir Rifle event. scores of 9.9 and 9.5 in the seventh and eighth attempts, Narang pulled up his socks to seal theNarang shot 103.1 in a gripping ten-shot finals bronze with impressive scores of 10.3 and 10.7.for an aggregate of 701.1 after scoring 598 in thequalifying round in which also he stood third. Earlier, Bindra, India’s shooting gold medallistAlin George Moldoveanu of Romania won the in 2008, failed to make it past the qualifyinggold, while Niccolo Campriani of Italy came up event for the title he won in Beijing four yearswith a silver. Moldoveanu shot the same score ago. He shot a round of 594 in the qualifiers,as Narang – 103.1 – but came first by virtue getting three nines in the sixth and final roundof finishing first in the qualifying round at the which ruined his chances of qualifying.Royal Artillery Barracks. He has struggled to confirm his supremacy overAfter a good start when he shot 10.7, Narang the past couple years, even slipping to 20th inwas off target with his second shot that fetched the world rankings, but there widespread expec-him 9.7. But he gathered his wits and steadied tations that Bindra would defend the time hehis aim to collect 10.6, 10.7, 10.4 and 10.6 in the won on August 11, 2008.following four shots to at one stage remain oncourse for bagging even a silver.
  26. 26. Saina Nehwal Bronze medal,Women’s Singles, badminton
  27. 27. Why Saina’s Olympic triumphis just the beginning Saina is good enough to go for another eight years especially and has age on her side. Which means two more Olympics, two more Asian Games, and many All Englands and world championships. TS Sudhir, Aug 7, 2012“T his medal is yours, Papa.” shuttler for the first time had made a mark. Also because in a country that worships only “Thank you beta.” cricket as religion, it is important to acknowl- edge players who are defining a new faith. AtThose five words from Olympics 2012 bronze Hyderabad airport, students from the Pullelamedallist in badminton women’s singles Saina Gopichand Badminton Academy rubbed shoul-Nehwal to her father Dr Harvir Singh, marked ders with Harvir’s scientist colleagues from thethe realisation of a dream that Saina’s parents Directorate of Oilseeds Research. And Saina,had seen 13 years ago. To see their daughter on her coach Pullela Gopichand and fellow shut-the podium at the Olympic Games. tler P Kashyap were taken into the academy in a decorated horse carriage.Saina’s return home was loud, exuberant andenthusiastic. It deserved to be as well, for in The Hyderabad skyline was dotted with hoard-a sport dominated by the Chinese, an Indian ings welcoming the champion. One of them
  28. 28. “The first point hasfrom the noodles brand, that Saina endorses, congratulatingher for the masaledaarperformance at the Olympics.“I was a normal girl, today I am a champion. I always wanted gone to Saina, sheto be an Olympic champion. I am proud of myself, that I didwhat I said. When I was standing on the podium, I started will hope to make the most of a good begin-weeping thinking of all the years of hard work that Gopi sirand I put in,” Saina said.What this medal will do is to inspire a whole lot of youngsters ning. China chose allwho will seriously look at badminton as a career option. LikeG Ruthvika Shivani, who was admitted to the Gopichand it’s players becauseAcademy on the day the team left for London. Ruthvika, they had a good recordfrom the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, is alreadythe under-15 National champion in singles and doubles and against Saina. This will be a tough battle forthe doubles under-17 national champion. And the prospect ofrubbing shoulders with Saina excites her to no end.“I have never met her but now I will get to see how she prac- her. It’s 2-0 in Saina’stises and I hope she will also guide me and give useful tips,”Ruthvika said. favour.”The 15-year-old who started playing badminton at the age of “Xin injury break”seven is clear that she wants to be another Saina Nehwal.However, Saina insists her life won’t change much even afterthe Olympic victory. “I will take a break for 3-4 days and then “Saina has been giv-it will be back to business on court,” she says. For “changingthe colour of the medal next time,” is the diktat of her father.But perhaps the tougher task starts now. One will be to moti-vate herself for the challenges ahead. The pitfall with almost ing up easy points. Farconquering the Mount Everest of tournaments, is that the too many errors, Wa-player could find the fire in her belly getting extinguished.Two, in a country starved of role models, the media attention ing Xin has just had to keep the shuttle inand publicity could make it very difficult to stay grounded. Allof which could reflect in the performance in the tournamentsto follow. play and Saina hasThe good thing about Saina is that she has a mature head onher shoulders. She needs to remind herself that she is still a done the rest. It mustwork in progress and there are miles to go before she sleeps. be difficult. But thinkFortunately in her family and Gopi, she has people who willnot let have her head in the clouds. about this… it’s anotherGopi has already revised his expectations from Saina. See- four years before theing a player like 33-year-old Tine Baun making it into thequarters at London, Gopi feels Saina is good enough to go next Olympics. Mean-for another eight years especially since at 22, she has age onher side. Which means two more Olympics, two more Asian while, Xin seems toGames, and many All Englands and world championships. have injured an ankle.Gopi’s mother Subbaravamma, who manages the Academy’s It seemed to hurt a lot.”
  29. 29. “Saina losesadministration, says her son’s task as coach isn’t over.“He has to produce many more Sainas. I wish for a day when first game”two Indians are playing against each other in the finals of theOlympics,” she said. And in case you think it is wishful think-ing, she adds, “This academy is a lucky place. Whatever I have “It’s 18-21. Saina waswished for at this place, it has come true.”Four years ago, Saina’s spirit was broken when she lost in thequarter-final at the Beijing Olympics and no amount of peptalk by Gopi could cheer her. Finally Gopi told Saina, on their down 14-20 and thenreturn flight to Hyderabad, “Report for practise tomorrow fought back to takemorning at 6.” 4 straight points be- fore the injury to Xin.Saina’s reply was unexpected. “Can we start at 7 am instead,Sir?”(T S Sudhir is the author of `Saina Nehwal : An Inspiration- But upon resumption,al Biography’) Xin hit a superb cross court smash to clinch the game.” “Saina gets bronze, Wang Xin retires”“Saina gets the bronze. Saina was struggling a bit but Xin re-tired due to a knee injury. Not the way you’d want to win a medal,but we’ll take it. India can use all the medals they can win. Thescore was 18-21, 0-1 when the Chinese player simply collapsedon the court. She couldn’t take the pain anymore. A concernedSaina stood by and watched, before gently walking over to heropponent and consoling her.”
  30. 30. London 2012: Saina’s momentbut it’s time to salute Gopichand Saina blossomed into a player of international repute once Gopi took her under his wings and the world- class infrastructure at his Academy helped. And along with training her, Gopi also instilled in Saina the virtue of keeping her feet firmly on the ground. TS Sudhir, Aug 5, 2012H yderabad: One morning at the acad- went up, as his ward Saina Nehwal, bronze me- emy, in June, after a training session, dalist at the 2012 London Olympics stood with I asked national coach Pullela Gop- Li Xuerui (gold medallist) and Yihan Wang (sil-ichand, if he dreams about the Olympics. He ver medallist) on the podium. It also marked thesmiled and said “Yes, I dream. While awake, fulfilling of a promise he had made to himselfconsciously. The thought that the Indian flag is at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when he lostgoing high and the medal is coming along.” in the pre-quarters. He had told fellow shuttler and national champion Aparna Popat then thatWho says dreams do not come true. one day he would coach someone who would win an Olympic medal.Gopi’s daydreaming came true at the WembleyArena when the Indian and the Chinese flags Who says people do not keep their promise.
  31. 31. Saina may not have won the battle against half-smashes, your game is up.China but the bronze medal is a tribute to theeffort that has gone into creating a hole in the Back home in Hyderabad, Saina’s father foundGreat Wall of Chinese badminton. Both Saina company in his tears of joy. An extremely emo-and Gopi knew they had to get their strategies tional man, he has invested his time, energy,just right, the fitness perfect and the mind at money and emotions in the younger of his twopeace to have a realistic chance of winning a daughters. If Saina had returned empty-hand-medal in London. ed, it would have broken the heart of this man who borrowed money from his Provident FundSaina had been plagued with injuries for the to fund Saina’s badminton dream. As it wouldbetter part of 2011. Since the last one year, have mother Usha Rani’s. Both Harvir and UshaSaina’s diet regimen was strictly regulated. She have been badminton players and Saina herselfate what Gopi Sir ordered. She was encouraged concedes that but for her mother’s push, en-to practise yoganidhra to ease off pressure. An- couragement and even slaps, London could notother person who played a huge role in ensuring have been conquered.Saina’s fitness is physio Kiran. She lost 5.5 kg inthe first three months of this year, to help her It is also time to compliment the badmintonmove faster on court. Her retrievals in London infrastructure in Hyderabad because Saina iswere proof that the strategy had worked. a product of the system. She was first spotted as a talent at the summer coaching camp inPerhaps it helped that after the high of 2010 – 1999 and encouraged by successive badmintonthe year Saina won five big titles – 2011 saw her coaches. She blossomed into a player of inter-form and fitness take a dip. Sports experts often national repute once Gopi took her under hissay defeats helps in taking out the arrogance wings and the world-class infrastructure at histhat tends to inadvertently creep into a player Academy helped. And along with training her,if he or she is winning continuously. And that Gopi also instilled in Saina the virtue of keepingmanifests itself in the player’s temperament, her feet firmly on the ground.body language and attitude towards others. Today as India celebrates its first OlympicToday Saina won hearts by walking up to an medal in badminton, along with Saina, it is alsoinjured and heartbroken Wang Xin, hugged her time to salute Gopichand, the man who madeand quietly walked out of the court. She knew it possible. His name is never mentioned inthis was not how she wanted to win an Olympic the chorus for the Bharat Ratna. To my mind,medal. She knew she had a very good chance as someone who both excelled in his sport andto put it past Wang, who is world number 2 gave back to the game, Gopi is as deserving ifand brilliant on court. But Saina on Saturday not more than Sachin Tendulkar, Dhyan Chandwasn’t the Saina of Friday against Yihan Wang. and Viswanathan Anand.Her feet were moving much better and she wasengaging Wang Xin in rallies, the only way to (T S Sudhir is the author of `Saina Nehwal : Anscore points against the Chinese. Because the Inspirational Biography’)moment you let them hit their smashes and
  32. 32. Gopichand’s belief: Wanta champion, forget democracy In order to match the best, Gopichand has adopted the same philosophy of strict regimentation the Chinese, Koreans or the Japanese follow. The results have just started to show. Abhijeet Kulkarni, Aug 6, 2012A few years ago, the trainees of the Pul- sure that the players utilised their rest time only lela Gopichand academy at Gachibowli to recover from the strenuous training sessions had the tendency of calling the training and not waste their time and energy indulgingcomplex a three-star jail since none of the play- themselves in unnecessary activities.ers were allowed to walk out of the premises foreven a general stroll or shopping without the The Gopichand Academy, which gave India itspermission of the coaches and a gate pass. first Olympic medal when Saina Nehwal won the bronze in London last week, has now be-Some of the players even had to surrender their come a cradle for badminton talent in India andcell phones after the morning training session the man who dreamt of making India a super-and it was difficult for many to fathom the logic power in world badminton one day, rules it withof all these rules. Slowly but surely they under- an iron fist.stood that it was coach Gopichand’s way to en-
  33. 33. “If you want to produce champions, there isno place for democracy,” Gopichand had told Once Saina became a star and the entire nationthe writer way back in 2009. The conversation began following her progress, the most popularabout India’s future in badminton had then wa- ward were given certain liberties but Gopichandvered towards the 2001 All England champion’s was never willing to compromise on certainstrict control over his wards and Gopichand had issues and that became a bone of contentionresponded saying he needs to know everything between the two last year.that his player does every minute of the day. But Saina soon understood the importance ofGopichand has firmly believed the progress of the strict regimentation that Gopichand hadany player depends as much on what he or she prepared for her considering her body’s tenden-does on the court but also outside the court as cy to quickly gain weight, something that slowedit can physically and emotionally affects their her down on the court.overall development. In the run up to the Olympics, Saina’s publicThe Indian Oil employee was very clear in his appearances were restricted and there was amind that the Indians were second to none in rationing on even the amount of time she canskills but lacked the fitness levels to match the spend talking on in the world. A fan of the Chinese trainingregime which puts tremendous emphasis on The results of the regimentation are for eve-fitness and agility, Gopichand’s went about the ryone to see. Saina won the country’s maidentask of building the fitness levels of his players bronze in badminton and her academy mate Pwith extensive training and strict diet control. Kashyap became the first Indian male shuttler to reach the quarterfinals at the Olympics.“Not one of my trainee will lose a match becausehe or she is unfit,” a statement Gopichand today There is a battery of youngsters who have themakes with pride anytime he is asked about the potential to carry the baton from these two andplayers at his academy. have already started showing the spark on the international stage. P Sindhu is already theBut that was not an easy task. When in Hydera- junior Asian champion, Sameer Verma has beenbad, Gopichand is at the academy at 4.30 in the a finalist in the junior Asian meet and HS Pran-morning preparing the daily training schedule noy won silver in the inaugural Youth Olympics.of the 30-odd trainees and explaining his as-sistant coaches what they are supposed to do In order to match the best, Gopichand hasfor the day. The elite shuttlers are put through adopted the same philosophy of strict regimen-three sessions each day with the physical train- tation the Chinese, Koreans or the Japaneseing and gym sessions customised to every indi- follow. The results have just started to show.viduals needs.“During breakfast time, Gopi sir would standbehind some of us, even weigh the amount offood intake we had because we used to hate eat-ing the protein rich food,” Prajakta Sawant, nowthe women’s doubles national champion, hadtold me once.The rules were even stricter for Saina. Evenwhen she was on a break and attending promo-tional functions, she would excuse herself andgo to her room once it was time for her to sleepand I have personally witnessed how Gopichandwould remind her about the time if Saina didmiss the deadline.
  34. 34. How Saina overcame hershortcomings to winan Olympic medal Badminton pundits and Saina by her own admission, feel that a lot of other players have better technique. And to blunt this advantage that others may have, over the years Saina worked really hard at fitness to outlast and outclass her opponents. Aparna Popat, Aug 6, 2012T he crowds were cheering her during the nament yet there was the looming threat from rallies at the historical Wembley Arena. her opponents from across the border — the A billion hearts rooting for her. Even the Chinese.gods I suspect were watching. I suspect the winning formula lay right withinOur very own Saina Nehwal created history to the problem — ‘Chi’nese.become the first badminton Olympic medallist. Chi is the mental energy and physical energy ofShe was a medal favourite going into the tour- a person combined. Saina knew that that if one
  35. 35. had to beat the Chinese they had to have Chi They say when a student is ready, the coach ap-completely in control. pears. And Saina was ready to learn and to work harder than anybody else.So along with her high levels of physical fitness,she used the Yoganidra technique — one of the I believe Gopi was the right guru for Saina. Withdeepest forms of meditation to control the Chi. meticulous planning and innovation he hasWith the weight of expectations, performance brought out the best in her slowly but surely.pressure and formidability of the Chinese, thiswas another arrow in her quiver. I last played her at my penultimate National Championship in 2006. Though I won theThis is just one of the finer points in the path to match, I could see dramatic improvement in herthat Olympic medal. But let me take you back in speed, variety and accuracy of strokes and con-time a bit. fidence. Her motivation was as powerful as ever. Here was a worthy successor to past badmintonI first heard about Saina in the badminton champions — ready to take Indian badmintoncircles around 2001. While traveling for one of to the next level.the nationals, I asked Gopi about this young-ster who was now training in his hometown, As each year went by, I could see Saina growingHyderabad. He excitedly told me that the girl and glowing in glory as she worked to conquerwas very strong physically. Coming from Gopi, her fears and overcome her weaknesses onethat was high praise and it certainly piqued my by one. She was ever ready to put in that extrainterest in this upcoming youngster. effort to reach the very top. And she certainly loved to win.I first played Saina at the Senior Nationals in2004, when she was 14 years old. While I real- Fast forward back to the present, Saina hasised that what Gopi said about her strength was became our heroine No 1 — first Indian badmin-true, what really stood out for me was her nev- ton player to win the World Junior Champion-er-say-die approach that was evident even then. ships, 1st Indian woman to win a Super SeriesShe really toiled through the match never giving title, 1st Indian woman to achieve a world rank-up on hope even though I was the top seed and ing as high as No 2, and now 1st Indian to win aby then national champion six times over. badminton Olympic medal. No wonder she has become the most sought after non-cricketingBadminton pundits and Saina by her own ad- sportsperson in India.mission, feel that a lot of other players have bet-ter technique. And to blunt this advantage that I have seldom come across someone so commit-others may have, over the years Saina worked ted in any field of life. So persevering to provereally hard at fitness to outlast and outclass her themselves, so determined to win. Her unfor-opponents. tunate loss in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Games spurred her on to prepare 100 percentWhile, I believe fitness is an outcome of dedica- for London 2012.tion and discipline, at the highest level of com-petition in badminton, more is demanded of Today I feel immensely happy and proud thatthe champions. Finesse and technique had to be Saina has achieved her dream of an Olympiclearnt if she wanted to score points of her oppo- medal because I don’t think I can think of any-nents. But learning that was tricky. Enter Gopi. one who deserves it more.This is where her coach and former All-Englandchampion P Gopi Chand has been exceptionallyhelpful.
  36. 36. Mary Kom Bronze medal,Women’s boxing (51kg)
  37. 37. Educating Indians: There’ssomething about Mary Kom It perhaps takes an occasional Olympic hero to impart a few home truths to us. What Mary Kom, the pint-sized pugilist, teaches us... Venky Vembu, Aug 7, 2012M ark Twain said, only half in jest, that tify Manipur, the State from which she hails. Americans learnt geography through the wars their country waged. Many of those who responded said they didn’t earlier know where Manipur was, but now theyIn India, it appears, it takes an occasional Olym- did. That, he said, was his “humble goal”.pic hero – like the pint-sized pugilist Mary Kom– to impart a similar lesson in the geography of The northeastern States are endearingly re-places that exist outside of our normal range of ferred to as the “seven sisters”, but the familialvision. collective also masks a failing in many of us “on the mainland”: an inability to tell all the ‘sisters’On Twitter on Monday, @tonytongbram used apart on a map – and a deeper incuriosity aboutthe upsurge in national interest in the sporting the region. Amitabh Bachchan may not be guiltyfortunes of Mary to conduct a pop quiz – and of any of these, but he too erred momentarily,elevate the cartographic awareness of many In- while saluting Mary Kom, in referring to herdians. On a map of India’s northeastern region, as being from Assam. And although he quicklyhe asked Mary Kom’s many fans to try and iden- rectified his error of geography, he illustrated a
  38. 38. “The gameplan”common-enough mental lapse.Manipur is, of course, a State that, like much of the north- “Almost time for Maryeastern region, has fallen off the map of our collective con-sciousness – to the point where even the periodic economicblockades (which compels Mary Kom to cook on woodstoves)and Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike of 11-plus years don’t Kom vs Maroua Rahali.make it to media headlines. The bout begins at 6.30So, if it takes a Mary Kom to advance the frontiers of our un-derstanding, it’s a consummation devoutly to be desired. PM. The Indian is shortBut Mary Kom isn’t just teaching us to mark places on a map. but she has the experi-Typical of someone who punches above her weight, she also ence. Her one-two punch-subconsciously holds up a mirror to another duplicitous sideof our mental make-up. The effusive readiness with which es worked well in the firstmany Indians have embraced Mary Kom contrasts sharply –and hypocritically – with the racist stupidity and ethnic stere- bout and she will look tootyping that is inflicted on many of those from the northeast-ern States in the big cities in “the mainland”. do that again. She givesMary herself knows what it is to be mocked in Delhi’s mean up quite a few inches instreets. In a recent expansive profile of Mary Kom in Intelli- height but she has thegent Life, Rahul Bhattacharya writes: quick hands to make sure“When (Mary Kom) walks the streets of Delhi with her fel-low north-eastern athletes, they are sometimes mistaken for her opposition stays onNepali domestic help. ‘I tell them we are not Nepali, we areManipuri, so don’t speak like that, this is very bad manners.’ the back foot.” “Mary Kom winsAt other times they are taunted with the gibberish dispensedto those with oriental features: ‘Something ching ching ching third round 6-1”ching they start speaking, I don’t know what. Even theydon’t know what! We are feeling bad. We are Indian.Ya, theface is different. But heart is Indian.’” “Wow. This is amazingOn occasion, the latent racism goes too far, as some recenttragic instances involving students from northeastern States– Richard Loitam (in Bangalore),Ramchanphy Hongray (inNew Delhi), and Dana Sangma (in Gurgaon) – illustrate. stuff. Mary completedBut even when it is not lethal, expressions of racism, whetherdirected at one of our own or of foreign extraction, shame us dominated her opponent.all. Dodging and weavingFor instance, during Saina Nehwal’s matches with Chineseplayers at the Olympics, The Hindu’s China correspondent and landing the perfectAnanth Krishnan observed a stream of racist public outpour-ings from Indians directed at the Chinese (A couple of cringe- punches. Her lead is anworthy samples: here and here UPDATE: Both have since impressive 11-4. If shebeen deleted; in Ananth Krishnan’s case, he was forced to doesn’t get knocked out, she is into the semis. Surely.”
  39. 39. “Mary Kom winsdelete his Retweet after he received a succession of abusivetweets, including from some people who fell into the errorof assuming they were his words: as I have made clear, theywere not: he was merely calling out the racist rants of someothers.) fourth round 4-2,Such racist name-calling was again shamefully in evidenceduring a recent visit to China by an Indian youth delegation into semis” “What an easy win! Marymade up of youth representatives from various political par-ties. Media accounts of their indecorous conduct (here andhere) recall that the male members of the youth delegation“made lewd remarks of the dressing style of some Chinese showed the value of ex-girls and called them ‘chinkis’.” Subsequently, they pickedon girls from northeastern India who were part of their own perience in this bout. She started off slowly, gaug-delegation as well.As Ananth Krishnan observed, “For people who love to playvictim abroad, we unashamedly tolerate racism to Asians and ing her opponent andAfricans.” then slowly dominatedPerhaps someone needs to put the fear of Mary Kom into the proceedings. By thethose who would resort to such racist name-calling. As thisblogger observed: “Next time you use insulting slang for end, she was in complete charge. She won the boutpeople of North East, remember… Mary Kom, the Olympianboxer, is from Manipur. She’ll whack you :) ”From filling the gaps in our geographic and cultural under- 15-6 and the fourth roundstanding of the northeast to ‘fixing’ the moral compass of 4-2.”some of our deviants… it appears that there’s nothing that aleft-hook from Mary can’t fix. “Now for a gold!”“Mary Kom is assured of a bronze now. But surely, she’s look-ing to get a gold. Her opponent is Nicola Adams - who beat her inthe World Championships in May. Nicola is a three-time WorldChampionship runner-up. It won’t be easy.”
  40. 40. Olympics: It’s finallyMary Kom’s day to shine The inclusion of women’s boxing brings to an end the last all-male sport at the summer games. Reuters, Aug 5, 2012A fter judging controversies marred the “It means a lot to me, we never really got our first week of fights at the London’s recognition. I think that it’s right, and that Games, boxing’s governing body will we’re going to be able to showcase the best ofplay its trump card on Sunday when they allow women’s boxing,” 17-year-old American middle-women to compete on an Olympic stage for the weight Claressa Shields told Reuters.first time. “We’ve got really good women here. When they see the best, they’re going to be like ‘yeah, women can box’.” The International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) president said last week that he hopes more women will box at the Games in four years time and that he would press the International Ol- ympic Committee (IOC) to increase its quota of competitors to allow it to do so. That is provided they perform well, AIBA presi- dent Wu Ching-kuo said, something India’s Mary Kom and Ireland’s Katie Taylor, sporting heroes in their countries who hold nine worldThe inclusion of women’s boxing, rejected in the titles between them, fully intend doing.past because of a limited global appeal that sawthem only sanctioned to fight in the 2012 host Like Shields, Taylor has received a bye into thecountry 15 years ago, brings to an end the last quarter-finals and have to wait until Mondayall-male sport at the summer games. to join the action, leaving it to 24 fly, light and middleweight fighters to blaze the trail on Sun-Competing in just three categories and with day.smaller fields than their male counterparts, thewomen have had to wait over a week to make When North Korea’s Hye Song Kim and Elenatheir bow, watching on as two officials were sent Savelyeva of Russia take to the ring at 1230home and another referee suspended. GMT, the world will be watching.For one day at least, those controversies will beforgotten.
  41. 41. Emotional win for me as it ismy twins’ birthday: Mary Kom The inclusion of women’s boxing brings to an end the last all-male sport at the summer games. PTI, Aug 6, 2012L ondon: India’s medal aspirant M C Mary and rated her as “very strong” but said she used Kom said her first round bout against her experience to prevail over her. Poland’s Karolina Michalczuk in the Ol-ympic Games was an “emotional” one as it was “The Polish girl is very strong, but she is a littlethe fifth birthday of her twins Rechungvar and bit weak technically. If she was good technicallyKhupneivarand. no-one could beat her. I beat her because of my experience. I can move back and slip a little bit,”“It is an emotional moment for me as today is she sons’ fifth birthday. I am not there to cel-ebrate because I am fighting in the ring. I am On being at the London 2012 Olympic Games,looking forward to being with them as this is she said,”The Olympics are very special. Everyimportant,” she said after her bout against the athlete works to play at the Olympic Games.Polish opponent which she won 19-14. This is my 12th year of fighting and I came back out of retirement and changed my weight be-Mary Kom had great respect for her opponent cause I had to take part in the Olympic Games.
  42. 42. Luckily, I qualified and today I won.” wasn’t lucky,” she said.India’s coach Gurbakhsh Singh Sandhu said On what she would change in the bout, she saidMary boxed intelligently and with good foot- “I would probably change the referee. I don’twork. feel beaten. I don’t feel like I lost and it was unfair.”“It is a very big day for Indian boxing. Sheboxed intelligently with good footwork and was On women’s boxing being at the Olympicscoring and moving.” Games, she said “It is a good thing and it will mean a great development in the sport. And the“I think she demonstrated all the moves. She standard in the future will be higher.”comes from the north-east of India and I thinkthis has been a very big lift for her and for Asked whether she planned to take part in thewomen’s boxing,” Sandhu said. next Olympics in Rio de janeiro, she said “I will finish studying. I am 33 now so I will not be ableOn whether more women’s weights should be to go to Rio.”included at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, hesaid “Changing weight was the only way Mary Karolina’s coach Leszek Piotrowski resignedcould get a chance (at the Olympics). She is as the coach, saying that there was no boxingstill more like 48kg (light flyweight). I think atmosphere in his country.they should not cut down the number of men’sweights but add more for women.” “There is a very poor atmosphere in the Polish camp and team and I am resigning. There is aKarolina said it was a great experience to take split in the Polish boxing federation. For me itpart in the Olympics but she was not lucky is a part-time (job). I am not in it for the money.enough to proceed any further. I am in it for the medals and achievements. Boxing is not my profession, it is my hobby,” he“I am very happy and it was a great honour to one of the first women boxers (in the Olym-pic Games). I worked very hard to get here but I
  43. 43. Of Mary Kom, Manipur,Olympics and curiosity What Mary Kom has done, by her heroism, especially her feat at the Olympics, is to make you care, make you curious, make you want to know. Anant Rangaswami, Aug 9, 2012‘M ary Kom puts Manipur on the map’, When you hear about Napoleon’s Waterloo, you scream a hundred headlines. ask, “Where is Waterloo?” It’s in Belgium.Manipur was always on the map – but you Robin Hood makes one think of Sherwood For-didn’t know where it was and you didn’t care. est, which is in Nottinghamshire in England. It needs the achievement by a person or persons to make us curious about where they hailed from or where they achieved their greatness. That’s why the rights to conduct of the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics and, to a lesser de- gree, the Commonwealth Games are so fiercely fought. The city or country which wins the right immediately sees an increase in curiosity – and these cities or countries are ‘on the map’. Mary Kom of Manipur has piqued our interest – and we want to know where Manipur is on the map. We want to know more about the land sheWhat Mary Kom has done, by her heroism, was born in and lives in. We want to know whatespecially her feat at the Olympics, is to make is in and around the village she lives in, the foodyou care, make you curious, make you want she eats, the flora and fauna around know. Know more about her and where shecomes from. And then, perhaps, fascinated by all we’ve learnt, we want to go to Manipur, and we wantThat’s what great feats and events do for places. to know if there is an airport near Manipur…When you hear of the heroics of the Battle of Yes, there is: Imphal.Plassey, you want to know where Plassey was oris (it’s in West Bengal; actually Palashi; 150 km Mary Kom has not put Manipur on the map.north of Kolkata). She’s made us search for it on the map, she’s made all of us curious about Manipur.When you hear of the heroism and the logisticsof the Normandy Landings, you wonder where That’s what great achievers like Manipur do –Normandy is (it’s in France). make the world curious about everything to do with them.
  44. 44. India (hearts) Mary Kom.But do we deserve her? There’s something patronising about all this “Never mind, we still love you, Mary Kom” gush. India, thou over-compensateth too much as if to say Hail Mary, full of grace, grant us forgiveness for all those chinky jokes. Sandip Roy, Aug 9, 2012T here is indeed something about Mary. extreme of over-compensation. Mary Kom is everywhere as if to prove hum kissise Kom na- But the “oh never mind, we still love you, hin.Mary” adulation that is sloshing around the me-dia after Mary Kom lost her Olympics semi-final In her, India has finally found a story about Ma-says something more about the rest of us than it nipur in particular, and the north east in gen-does about Magnificent Mary. eral, that is not about insurgency, HIV, drugs, floods or AFSPA. Her own state’s Irom SharmilaIt says that as a country we know full well that really came into the national spotlight becausewe have treated the seven sisters of the north- Anna Hazare was fasting in Jantar Mantareast abysmally. But we are hoping our new- though Sharmila has been refusing food for overfound ardour for Mary Kom will grant us abso- a decade. Even now I’d bet most of us have onlylution. the vaguest idea why she fasts.From hardly knowing who Mary Kom was a few But India has seized on the Mary Kom storymonths ago, now we have swung to the other with enormous relief because there is guilt