A three-figure contingent aiming for a double-digit haul of medals! The Indian dream of the Rio Olympics can be stated in these simple words. Having named 121 athletes across 15 disciplines, India is looking forward to its highest ever medal tally at the Rio. All athletes have prepared extensively and are looking to color the CidadeMaravilhosa with saffron and green. Here we look at some of the best bets from the country for grabbing those highly coveted and being decorated amongst the thunderous applause and rendering of the National Anthem:
Rajyavardhan Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Vijay Singh and Gagan Narang. The four most revered names amongst the highly illustrious list of achievers in the Indian shooting fraternity. Having conquered the Commonwealth and Asian Games with their dazzle and unerring precision, the Indian shooters are geared up to bring home a bag of Gold, Silver and Bronze from the biggest sporting arena of all. The team comprising of 12 highly rated and consistent performers at the elite levels has multiple world champions amongst them. With the evergreen veterans Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Manavjit Singh Sandhu and youngsters such as JituRai, Apurvi Chandela, Heena Sidhu amongst others, this team is capable of feats beyond belief. Having undergone various trainings over the years, each of these shooters has the experience of winning at the highest levels. It wouldn’t be a surprise if India gets into double figures in the medals tally through shooting itself.
One is an Olympic Medalist, while the other is a two-time bronze medalist at the World Championship. One is a hawk always waiting for the kill, while the other is a tactical genius lulling the opponent into a trap before a calculated move for the end. One is a veteran performer on the Olympic stage, while the other will be making her much awaited debut. The story of two superwomen of Indian badminton, is eagerly waiting for its next big chapter. With the Olympic rules limiting number of participating Chinese players to just two in the singles, the Indians have an excellent chance to create some real big story in the Marvellous City, under the watch of Christ the Redeemer. The Chinese Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan, World Champion and ranked no. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain and a revitalized former Thai World No. 1 Ratna chokInthanon are the biggest threats, but as they have proved many times over the past few years, no opponent is unbeatable to Saina and Sindhu.
A surprise by giant killer SrikanthKidambi and the veteran duo of Jwala Gutta and AshwiniPonnappa is always on the cards.
Like shooting, wrestling is another sport which has been bringing medals to the country off recent. Double Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar and YogeshwarDutt have given birth to a wrestling revolution in the country. The Indian wrestlers under the watchful eyes of coaches and trainers have been gearing for the big event for which eight wrestlers, including two women have qualified. Led by the veteran YogeshwarDutt, the team boasts of consistent performers at Asian, Commonwealth and World Championships. Although the team has been mired in controversy due to the non-selection of Sushil Kumar and the late doping offence of NarsinghYadav, the team will do well to put this behind their backs.
The three women, VineshPhogat, BabitaKumari and Sakshi Malik have the ability to surprise their opponents and get home with Olympic glory on the chest. Watch out for the firebrand Vinesh, who may well prove to be the story of this Olympics.
India has been waiting for its second tennis medal since Leander Paes won the first bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics having defeated Brazilian Fernando Meligini in the bronze medal playoff. Despite having the world beating doubles duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati and later SaniaMirza in their ranks, the tennis story at the Olympics has been largely underachieving for India. However, 2016 Rio Olympics may prove to be differentiated with India has real chance for medals in both men’s and mixed doubles. With the vastly improved Rohan Bopanna pairing up with Grand Slam legends Paes and Sania, India can even hope for two yellow medals this time.
Indian archery has been gaining in recognition since Delhi Commonwealth Games. The bag of medals won in subsequent events such as Asian Games, World Championships and Glasgow Commonwealth Games have made the country take notice. With three women archers and one male archer, the team stands an excellent chance of securing highly deserved glory. The archers shall do well to learn from the London Olympics debacle and adopt a strong mental approach to their matches. With more experience in their bows, they are itching to hit the bull’s eye consistently to grab those highly coveted colored medals.
After Hockey, Shooting and Wrestling, Boxing is the only game that has brought multiple medals to the country. Vijender Singh and Mary Kom have started a boxing revolution in the country with youngsters taking to the game in a big way. Although the sport has been mired in controversy due to the banning of the national governing body, the players have kept themselves motivated and fit for the big game. India is fielding only three boxers at Rio, a major reduction after eight boxers punched their way into history at London, but each of the three boxers, Shiva Thapa, Manoj Kumar and Vikas Krishnan have Olympic experience under their belt. A three out of three medal tally won’t surprise the coaches and fans that have been following them closely over the years. Meanwhile, the country eagerly waits for its next Vijender.
Indian position in hockey is like Brazil in soccer. Having a highly glorified history seems to raise expectations to unfathomable levels wherein a return without a medal, is seemed as a total failure. This is as much as an acknowledgement of people’s affection and expectation, as it is a reflection of people’s disconnection with the actual position of the team amongst the world elites. India finished a shameful 12th at the London Olympics and a finish anywhere in the top six will be a major improvement. The team has been improving at each major outing and bagged its first ever silver medal at the Champions Trophy recently. With Coach Roelant Oltmans stressing on a compact defense and superlative box-to-box Hockey, the team is definitely a medal contender. However, unnecessary pressure may once again prove to be the reason for collective failure. Superstars like Sardar Singh, S V Sunil and P R Sreejesh have the ability to get through any team in the world but the challenge shall always be to repeat it day after day on the grounds of Rio.
Additionally, India has also sent it’s biggest ever contingent in Athletics and is also participating in other disciplines like Golf, Gymnastics, Judo, Rowing, Swimming, Table Tennis and Weightlifting. However, other than weightlifter Sathish Sivalingam, the others are not being highly rated for their medal chances, but on a given day, a performance beyond expectations of all and sundry can never be discounted in an event like the Olympics. So, young Gymnast Dipa and Arjuna Awardee Tintu Luka can well propel themselves beyond expectations with a masterful performance on the big stage.
This August, will be a new chapter in the history of Indian sports. It is all set to be written in letters of gold, silver and bronze.