Showing posts with label London Olympics 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London Olympics 2012. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

You're Grounded! [263/365]

Revenge is a bitch.
About a month after they returned empty-handed, Hesh and Bopanna was handed a ban for the next two years. On the wrong side of 30 this ban has effectively ended Hesh national career.

Predictably, Hesh has protested. He claims that the nation got to hear only one side of the story and he was never given a chance to explain.
But honestly, Hesh, what did you expect?
We are a nation that has invented cruel ways of getting back at those who cross our paths. While I think this is a silly way to punish a national sporting hero, I do feel he deserved to be punished for the way he pulled the strings so close to the Oly.

When you're chosen to play for your country, it is expected that you set aside personal preferences, big and small, aside and play for the country. You're expected to be one big happy team. Protest if you should but think of the repercussions when you return. And when you're playing for your country, you play to win glory for your country and not for yourself. Hesh is a terrific pro-circuit player and having played at the top for many years, he commands the respect that he has been given.
However, Hesh erred greatly when he demanded to be paired with his choice of a partner in the doubles and made the AITA look like an idiot. After days of hectic negotiations, AITA finally gave in. He got his way and we were promised a medal. That was in the past. Today, Hesh's national career is virtually over. After holding the AITA in gunpoint in plain sight of the entire world, I'm feeling a profound sense of relief after he and his Oly doubles partner has been handed the ban. Bravo!

Pinching my ears..

Today, reading Hesh's 'side of the story' I'm reminded of the phrase 'The dog ate the food, bit the child and still wants to bark'.
He's going to sue AITA. He's complaining of 'dirty politics'. Dirty politics isn't really new but surprisingly, we didn't hear him complain when he was being rolled out the red carpet, did we?

If you ask me, Lee should have been banned too. He pulled his strings too but probably escaped the wrath only because he was smart enough to wait. Lee laid the bait and Hesh walked into it hook, line and sinker. Sania was the crab that strayed too close.

Hesh, shame on you, dude. You don't deserve to untie the straps of Girish!


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Quick Silver [249/365]

Source: London 2012 Paralympics
After 28 years, we finally got it, and in style.

24 year old Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda, won India's first and only medal at the special Olympics this year.
Suffering from a leg impediment, he got the silver by jumping over the 1.74 mt mark. His story is quite a remarkable one too. Son of a daily wage laborer, he took up the sport only towards the end of his school. With no formal training, he was mentored by a local sportsman until he started winning medals at national and international events.

This win is extra special coming from a nation that is no lover of the differently-abled. His journey to the Olympic silver is an inspiring story of how willpower can help overcome seemingly impossible hurdles.

Girish is no sympathy-monger either. Having excelled at sports alongside abled-bodied athletes at his home State, he moved to Bangalore to pursue a career and train. While our government splurged millions on able-bodied athletes in return for 6 medals, Girish had to quit his job to focus on training just six months before the event.

If Girish managed to better his personal record and get an Olympic silver with just six months of training, imagine how he would have done with a year. While our six Summer Olympic medalists are still giving their interviews and making speeches, there are scores of Girishs' who are struggling to breathe.

Let's hope this Silver medal will truly inspire a generation and help alleviate him and his family above poverty for ever. Let's pray that he does not fall victim to apathy and that the medal does not get sold for provisions.


Saturday, September 01, 2012

No nation for handicaps [245/365]

We, Indians, will never learn a lesson even if it hits us in the face and spits in our finger bowls.
Case in point- Public apathy at the Special Olympics, London.

Wait! I thought the Olympics was over! Sure, and so is corruption.
While most of the civilized world treats its citizens, able bodied and otherwise, with fearful respect and enough opportunities, closer home our 'handicapped' are lucky if they get a PCO and a job in the diversity quota.

I read an article in the British tabloids of how officials of the Paralympic Commitee of India (PCI) have gifted themselves and their families an 'all expenses paid trip' across our motherland (London, for the uninitiated) while our special bodied sportspeople are left to rot or die trying at the stadiums. Well, if it is any consolation, they must be used to the public apathy that they get back home too.

While the six medalists from our Summer Olympics are still getting used to the fame and fattened cheques, it would take our paralympic contingent nothing short of a miracle to get a medal. While I won't blame the athletes for the dry run, this only proves how deep the rot is.

Clearly, this is no nation for the Special People in our lives.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rio! [225/365]

As the quadrennial sporting extravaganza wraps up today, India is patting herself on her back.
She got 6 medals (none of them gold, mind you) from 83 'world-class' athletes.

Time for some stock-taking.
The great States of America stood first with whooping 104 medals. 46 of them gold.
Our northern neighbor stood second with a distant 88 medals. 38 of them gold.
And the hosts stood third with a 65 medals.
This is where the plot thickens.
If you're looking for India in the tally, you'll need to take a deep dive into the medal abyss. On the upside, we proudly stand at the top of the list of countries that have not won a gold. The downside- We are 55th of 79 countries who won any medals at all.

Goldman Sachs predicted India would win 5 medals. Nice guess.
If any consolation, we won more medals than countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt and Finland. Lest you boast, we won less than countries like Uganda, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Jamiaca. It is not the per-capita income or the size of our population that gave the geniuses at Goldman Sachs the hint, but the fact that we as a society have no sports in our genes at all. Chess and Snooker, maybe.

Children are seldom encouraged to pick and excel at a sport of their choice. It's the parent's choice or the highway.
Schools and colleges rarely spot and breed athletic talent.
A voluptuous B grade tennis star gets more spotlight than an athlete who actually performs consistently at the top.
And once an athlete wins at international sporting events, they are poached with promises of money and mid-ranking government jobs. That's the final nail on their coffins. This is what our society aims to achieve. A cushy government job. Secured retirement benefits and fame that will spill over to a few generations.

Money is flushed into athletes who are well established instead of nurturing talent at the grassroots. The Abhinav Bindras and Leander Paes of our country don't need millions of rupees for training and equipment. The Irfan Kolothum Thodis of our country does. The national cricket team does not need billions of dollars in endorsements and training, our Hockey team does.

What this Games achieved was monumental.
We could pretend to believe that we deserved more than we won, but the truth is we surprised ourselves.
If we won, it is not because of the millions of tax payer rupees that the government squandered on choosing, training and feasting our athletes over the past year. But because how some of our top athletes were groomed by corporate trust funds that demanded results.
The fact that we won any medals is proof that we can achieve sporting excellence just as easily as we achieve academic excellence if we put our mind to it.

Rio 2016, here we come.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Stop kissing the medal! [222/365]

So India bettered its past records at the Oly and got herself 4 medals.
And this is no mean achievement, I say.

While the Games are still on, nearly all of our 'largest Indian contingent ever' has returned. The shopping bags have been unpacked and the souvenirs distributed, it's time for our Olympians to take a well deserved break. Some more than the others.

I can't help notice how we still don't have world class track and field athletes, martial artists, gymnasts or swimmers. And its not like we have gold medalists in every other sport. Its just a bronze for crying out loud. Now, don't get me wrong. I agree that we did our 'level best' but that level apparently isn't enough. How can a tennis pair who won a grand slam not even qualify for the semi-finals?

I am no armchair activist or a couch potato and I fully comprehend the determination and effort that goes into training for an event like the Olympics. What I lament about is how our brightest medal hopefuls failed miserably. I wonder what Lee and Hesh have to say about the miserable defeat they were served. Sania is a choke artist. She's never performed in a singles in memory. The only matches she ever came close to winning was in mixed doubles. Strange!
Our hockey team suffered their worst defeat in their games history. And to think that we won the gold in consecutive Games until a few years ago. It looks like the team has long lost its mojo.

But in all fairness, some of our underdogs performed and how! The most inspirational were Saina and Mary Kom. What we lack in numbers, we certainly make up in spirit. 
Its also good to know that we are winning medals for our mothers and our fathers who 'brought us upto this level'. When did we stop 'playing for the honor of the country'?
Its also good that our bronze and silver medalists are getting a welcome fit for a Roman warrior. They deserved it. 
Its also good that our politicians are going to trip over each other declaring 9 digit rewards and insanely large tracts of prime land for free. This will be the start of yet another race, from pillar to post, to get these rewards. 
Its good that our sports minister has promised senior level job posts for each of our medalists. Finally, they will be underpaid government servants who must accept bribes and other 'favors'.

Alright, now can you please stop kissing the medals?


Monday, August 06, 2012

Badminton Racket [219/365]

Days after my prediction about Lee, Hesh and Sania came true, Saina has given us a cause to cheer.

After winning the bronze in a match that was well fought, Saina truly is the embodiment of a new era in Indian sports. She may not have the curves of a Sania but today's match proved that she is truly a world class athlete. But again, she is not a one match wonder and has struggled through the ranks in full public view.

Winning this medal wouldn't have come as a surprise to her, but knowing the kind of sportsperson she is, I am quite sure she would have liked the gold much better. The diminutive shuttler is of a new breed of sportspeople who have their head firmly on their shoulders.

Seven days into the Games, we stand 45th in the medal tally with 3 medals. Considering how we got only one medal and none until a few games ago, this is incredible improvement. Lest we rest, and the law of averages continue to work in our favor, we could try and send a larger contingent the next time.

And talking about contingents, China had her badminton players being disqualified before of irrefutable evidence of foul play and 'playing against the Olympic spirit'.

Let's drink to that!


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Shooting for glory [218/365]

Source: Getty Images
It looks like shooting could be in our blood after all. Ever since Abhinav captured India's imagination with an Olympic gold, we have been getting better at shooting.

Yesterday, we got our second Oly medal- a silver in the 25 mtr rapid fire pistol event when serving army man Subedar Vijay Kumar Sharma of the 16th Dogra Regiment in a 40 shot finished just 4 points behind Cuba.
Calm, composed and with none the fist bumping and celebration that our other athletes are known for, he like his medal colleagues worked his way up the ranks.

I've said it before and I'll say it again- Sports reveals character. And its about time we had more world-class athletes.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Sexy and the Bashful [214/365]

Source: nydailynews.com
The London Oly may not be the grandest in history but it certainly has the most beautiful and ruggedly handsome athletes gathered all under one roof. And we're not complaining. Former Miss Universo Paraguay Leryn Franco appear as much at ease on the ramp as she is with a javelin.

With the confetti cleared, China cracked the tally wide open with 2 medals. That's right. Our hostile neighbor got their first medals. And the fact is they are quite bashful about it. The athletes start young and train hard. Their methods are controversial but effective. When I was a small boy, there used to be a TV program that I used to watch called - Young Winners. The program used to feature young children, some as young as 8, who'd train for a sport with the single-minded determination to excel. The program would show how the children motivated themselves, doing well at school while also excelling in the sport of their choice. I never understood why you'd need to train so much and that early at that time.
Later I would realize the effort and determination that it took to win. And I could clearly see why this is where we lost out.

Today, as I was reading an compilation of the hottest athletes in this year's Oly, I was thinking: if only we trained as hard in sports as we try looking paler, we could have an athlete that is as good in sport as he/she looks.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ga Ga Gagan [213/365]

Source: ForbesIndia
And India got her first medal.

Gagan Narang, 29 and India's sweetheart in a hurry, won a bronze in the men's 10 meter air rifle.
But for optimists who think this would be the start of deluge of Oly medals, our nation's medal rank will disappoint. We are already 25th in the list.

India's former sweetheart, Abhinav Bindra didnt make it. Armchair sportstars will have a field day ridiculing Abhinav but considering how close he came (Abhinav lost by a mere 4 points) I think he will make us proud again. Nonetheless, I think this is great news. From great falls, you rise again.

In other news, our hockey team went down fighting. Which is a welcome relief from the poor shows they have been putting in the past couple of Games.
Hesh and Bopanna are still in the reckoning but considering how unsportsmanlike the duo have been over the selection process, I doubt if they will get a medal. Ditto with Lee or Sania. Am I a raging pessimist? No. Sportspersons who bicker like petty kinder-garden kids over who they will play with cannot possibly have any character within themselves.
While we wait for a couple of more medals, considering the Law of Averages, I can confidently say that Indian sports have entered a bright new era where performance does matter.

Until the next medal, India will continue to fawn over it's newest sharp shooter.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Who's that girl? [209/365]

Source: itntalk.com
Today, as India proudly paraded 83 of her finest athletes, a lady in red stole the limelight.

What followed was anarchy.
The Indian Olympic chief was livid. The hosts fumbled. The athletes looked clueless and uninterested. For the first time, they were there for the medals and nothing else.
'Who's that girl?' We asked.
Pat came the answer, she was one of us.

In our own inimitable style, we wanted to know who gave her the authority to steal our moment. Her family fled their home as news-hungry journos thronged her home in Bangalore. Neighbors and just about anyone who knew her name lamented at how 'she became like this'. The allegations are earth-moving- 'She has embarrassed us in front of the world (sic)...'. Well, Mr Raja, rest assured that we have already done might well in the 'embarrassing ourselves' department since the past couple of years. Must I remind you of the mess called CWG?

But I ask. Why this fuss?
I mean, she did manage to add style and pizazz to the contingent. She looked smart and very cosmo! Ofcourse, she has been labelled 'over-excited' by a trigger happy media, but what the heck. She might even get a million dollar book deal in the next year and we'll pick another scapegoat soon.

So, until we get our first Oly gold or until the lady in red returns to Bangalore, whichever comes first, we will continue to ruminate on how 'this lady hogged all the limelight'.




Friday, June 01, 2012

The Olympic Quest [152/365]

Even as I write this, London is abuzz with activity putting the finishing touches to the greatest sporting extravaganza the world will ever see. Held every leap year, the Olympics has been the ultimate goal for any sportsperson worth his/her sweat.

Having lived abroad for a significant part of my life, I've seen athletes train hard and long just for that elusive Olympic gold.
Globally, nations have encouraged their citizens to choose a sport of their choice and actively groomed them. By catching them young, they achieve a level of perfection that we as Indians could never achieve.

I've wondered why as a nation of a billion and growing, can not produce competitive and successful sportspeople. What is the reason of our obsession with cricket? Why have we abandoned hockey? Why can't be groom children to be excellent in one sport?

Many argue that we have not produced sportspeople the way other nations have, because as a culture we tend to focus on academics more than we do on sports.
Somehow we are brought up to believe that sports can never secure our financial future. Not entirely untrue since many of our medalists are forgotten as soon as they are feted.
We are brought up to believe that a good degree is what will get us a secure job, a good spouse, and retirement benefits.
If you are not in the big league, you are just a statistic.
Training and competing in games that matter are never cheap and sponsorship is painful and slow. Politicians will only support you if you scratch their backs. Forget corporate sponsorship if you are not into cricket.

But thankfully, this is slowly changing. About time too.
Indian athletes and sportsperson are slowly getting the limelight they deserve. And it appears that we are excelling both in individual and team sports. Saina, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Virender, Abhinav and a dozen other sportspeople are bringing India much needed recognition and it appears we are finally being looked upon as a nation that can multi-task well.

We finally have individuals who are ranked in the top ten in their disciplines and no, its besides cricket.
What contributed to this is definitely not a change in the way we raise our children nor in the way our nation perceives our non-cricket playing sportspersons, but in the way that we have recieved training, support and funding.
Two of the most spectacular examples of how corporates are put their money where their mouths are is the Mittal Champions Trust (MCT) and the Olympic Gold Quest (OCQ).

Dismayed at how we have been performing in international events, corporates created a trust fund that took care of some of the most basic grouses of an athlete and their families. Be it the lack of infrastructure or financial support in times of any need, these Trusts have made a difference in the lives of sportspersons who would have otherwise struggled. And the results are there for everyone to see- this will be India's largest Olympic contingent in history.

Our athletes for the first time are better prepared and sufficiently equipped. Many of the individuals competing are exude confidence while being cautious not to appear cocky. Nearly all of them are safe in the knowledge that the Trusts have taken care of all of theirs and their families' needs.

With safe optimism, we can expect atleast a dozen medals in disciplines like Boxing, Shooting, Wrestling, Badminton, Tennis and Weight-lifting. While this is good for us as a nation, I can also see our politicians leverage any medal to their benefit.

All said, London is the place to be this July.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freeze! [115/365]

source: The Telegraph
It's just April and we've got a full deck of exciting things happening.
While it appears like we'll have a full show at the Olympics which is just 100 days away, we are already having a race of another kind happening. An Arms race.

So, India decided to go ahead with a missile that can reach any part of China.
China, being the cry baby it is, first declares the missile is nothing compared to the ones it has but later declares the missile could actually go further than it was announced.
Predictably Pakistan, not used to being ignored by both India and China, has test fired it's own 'India missile', a modified version of the Shaheen. (Read the explosive news here)

If the threat of a nuclear war was not frightening, this would have been the stuff of standup comedians.
Pakistan was the target of our fear and hate psychosis until a few years ago. And then we tested our nukes, intimidating our western neighbor. All we wanted, was to scare the Pakis just enough to keep them on the edge but not push them over that they attack us. But they did and when the world reacted in aghast against Pakistan, we achieved our first moral victory. Our victory at the battlefield mattered less. Gradually, we lost our interest in Pakistan and trained our bofors at another troublesome neighbor - China.
For many years, and since the latest Indo Sino war, China has been restructuring itself. She has been quietly yet consistently growing. Organically and otherwise. Into an economy that the world cannot live without. Today, over 80% of everything manufactured or processed is Made In China. They build 15 fully equipped cities in a year while we struggle with a over-bridge for 10. I know I sound cynic but the proof is in the pudding.
Our government fumbles with every single infrastructure project and corruption is so deep rooted that it's slowly desensitized us.

So if you can't reach them, scare them.
Enter Agni 5. (Read my earlier post commemorating death)

But here's what I'm thinking.
Why do we need to annihilate a country that we can stand to gain a lot, if only we are friendly.
We needed 5 versions of a missile before we could build one that could reach all of China?! What did the first four versions reach? Srilanka? Andamans?

If you ask me, I think the Pakis had the missile a long while now. It's just taken them some time to translate the Chinese manuals.
Why Pakistan still finds India a threat is something I find disconcerting. With all the thaw that has been happening between the nations, a missile test like this puts a freeze on our bonhomie. Maybe we could test our 'Pakistan missile' again. Just to remind them that we already have a missile that can reach any spot in Pakistan.

What are we trying to achieve with all these missiles?
Intimidation is one of them.
While both the countries have showed how they can push each other's buttons really well, I think it's time we stop all this posturing.
Deep down, we desire to live together.
When we are the same culturally, geographically and ethnically, why can't we learn to live together as well?
We may not be able to beat China alone, but together we can achieve a super- economy that is unbeatable.

Perhaps our political fathers have been frightened at the prospect of having us work in harmony. Maybe they just want to keep our twin away.
And a missile is a wonderful way to do that.


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