When Jeff Fenech, a retired Australian boxer, was asked about the important of an Olympic medal, he said – “An Olympic medal is the greatest achievement and honor that can be received by an athlete. I would swap any World Title to have won gold at the Olympics.” Rio 2016 Olympics are not even a week away now & India is all geared up for the ultimate test. The Indian Olympic Association is going to send the nation’s largest ever delegation (thus far 119 athletes; 36 larger than their previous record of 83 athletes in 2012) in Summer Olympic history.
India won a total of 6 medals in 2012 Olympic games (2 silver and 4 bronze), doubling the nation’s previous record in 2008. Here is my analysis on who can bring home the medals.
Jitu Rai is one of the brightest prospects for bringing India a medal. His story will certainly inspire you. His mother cultivates rice on a small patch of terraced land that the family holds in his native village in Nepal. In 2014, at the ISSF World Cup in Munich, he won the silver medal in the 10-metre air pistol event. Following this, in Maribor, Rai won two medals; a silver in the 50-metre pistol event, and a gold in the 10-metre air pistol event. In the process, he won three medals in nine days at the World Cup and also became the first person to have won two medals at a single world cup for India. Following his achievements, he was ranked number 1 in the world, in 10-metre air pistol and number 4, in the 50-metre pistol, in July 2014. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Rai created the Games record in the qualification round of the 50-metre pistol event, having scored 562 points. He went on to win the gold medal in the event, scoring 194.1 points in the final, thus creating another Games record. In the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon in South Korea, Jitu won the gold medal in the 50 m pistol category. He also won a bronze in the men’s 10 m air pistol team event. In 2016, he won a silver medal at the ISSF World Cup held in Baku, Azerbaijan in the 10m Air Pistol event.
India’s wrestling contingent is spearheaded by Yogeshwar this time round. Yogeshwar Dutt is an Indian wrestler from Haryana. He won the bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the Men’s 60kg Freestyle wrestling. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2013. He won Gold Medal in 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Recently, he has been clubbed into the ‘Icon’ category by Haryana Hammers – one of the six teams playing under the first edition of Pro Wrestling League (PWL), which will be held from 10 December to 27 December in six Indian cities. He is currently supported by Olympic Gold Quest, a not-for-profit foundation that identifies and supports Indian athletes.
Abhinav Bindra is a World and Olympic champion in the 10 m Air Rifle event. By winning the gold in the 10 m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games. It was also India’s first gold medal since 1980 when the Men’s Field Hockey Team won the gold. He is the first and only Indian to have held both the World and Olympic titles at the same time, a feat he accomplished by capturing the Gold Medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, after having won the gold at the 2006 ISSF World Shooting Championships. Abhinav won Gold Medal in 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Mairaj Ahmed Khan
Mairaj Ahmed Khan is an Indian shooter in the shotgun skeet discipline. He won the Olympics quota in the Shotgun Skeet Event in Lonato, Italy in September 2015, the first Indian to qualify in this particular discipline. In 2016, he won silver at ISSF World Cup held in April in Rio de Janeiro, the host country for 2016 Olympics.
He is the first and only Indian to have held both the World Cup title as well as the Olympic quota for India at the same time, a feat he accomplished by capturing the Silver Medal at the 2016 ISSF World Cup Championship in Rio as well as a quota place for the shotgun skeet event for the Olympics in 2016. He is the first Indian athlete to represent India in the SK125 Event during the Rio Olympic Games. Currently, he is ranked 4th in the world and 2nd in Asia; he has been an international level shooter for over 15 years and has multiple accolades behind him including medals won during the Commonwealth Shooting Championship, Asian Championship, South Asian Federation, and National & International Championships.
Saina Nehwal is an Indian badminton player, former world no.1 in Women’s Singles. She is the first Indian to win a medal in Badminton at the Olympics. She achieved this feat by winning the Bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics on 4 August 2012. She is also the first Indian after Prakash Padukone and the first Indian woman to become world number 1 badminton player. Besides these, she is the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships and was also the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament, by clinching the Indonesia Open on 21 June 2009. Saina is supported by the Olympic Gold Quest.
Saina was initially coached by S. M. Arif a Dronacharya Award winner, and then by Pullela Gopichand till 2014 September. Saina is the reigning Indian national champion and is currently coached by the former Indian badminton champion and national coach Vimal Kumar. Saina Nehwal played for Hyderabad Hotshots in the Indian Badminton League in 2013. She won silver at 2015 BWF World Championship becoming the first Indian to do so.
Apart from these 5, we all hope Dipa Karmakar, Apurvi Chandela, Gagan Narang & Indian hockey team can chip in with medals. It isn’t just a fight for survival or supremacy, it is about winning at arguably the biggest stage and making people like you & me proud!