India at Rio Olympics 2016: Easier to predict lottery than potential medal-winners

Predicting the $1.5 billion Powerball Jackpot or putting your money on the right horse at the Meydan Racecourse during the Dubai World Cup would be slightly easier than pulling out the names of possible medal winners from the 119 Rio Olympics-bound Indian contingent. Of course, there are a few favourites, plus those tipped to finish in the top three; the rest make up what is our ‘representation’ at the Olympic Games.

India at Rio Olympics 2016: Easier to predict lottery than potential medal-winners

Yogeshwar Dutt, Saina Nehwal, Dipa Karmakar, Jitu Rai.

There is a huge chasm that divides the top nations and us, ‘India.’ We are still growing as an Olympic nation, tiny feet, stepping gingerly, and one a time. Sport is watched here. Not practiced. Indian kids know more about Usain Bolt, but they might not even know who is India’s National Inter-State Senior Athletics 100 metres champion. For the record, it is veteran sprinter Sameer Mon of Manipur. Sameer was also a member of the bronze-winning 4x100m relay quartet at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, six years ago.

But that’s where stats end and reality begins. And some of it is not good; like comparing ourselves to UCLA, (University of California in Los Angeles). UCLA students and coaches have won 253 Olympic medals – 128 gold, 65 silver and 60 bronze.

In contrast, we reached the final of an Olympic event only four times from 1960 to 1976, spanning a 16-year period. Our teams marched across Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich and Montreal – 184 athletes representing us for a measly one gold and two bronze. The gold medal came at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where India beat Pakistan 1-0 in the hockey final. The bronze medals came in hockey in 1968 and 1972. From 1976 to 1996, in 20 years and six cities, India won gold and a bronze – a hockey gold in 1980, a tennis bronze from Leander Paes in 1996, now playing an unbelievable seventh Olympic Games.

Rio, like London and Beijing before, is a once in a four-year phenomenon. Like a tidal wave slowly picking up momentum, the Olympics dawn upon India. Suddenly, a nation transforms itself. Wrestlers, sprinters, boxers, weightlifters, judokas, shooters, anybody who is not a cricketer, finally is acknowledged as a sportsperson. The sun has finally risen on his side of the world – a universe the athlete inhabits mostly in isolation. Records and the number of medals India would win are discussed. Even a failed dope test has scores of journalists covering the story. Outside the Olympics, a failed dope test would struggle to find mention. The Beast is the same; except now there is ‘Olympics’ embedded on it.

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