When money and performance didn’t go hand in hand

The Rio Olympics proved that it was not for the lack of money and resources that the medals eluded the Indian athletes. In fact, money proved counter-productive, as a study by the National Rifle Association of India revealed. Shooting had the best support but drew a blank for the first time in four Olympics.

India’s medal winners at the Rio Olympics, P. V. Sindhu (left; silver) and Sakshi Malik (bronze) at a felicitation function in Thiruvananthapuram in September 2016. About Rs. 60 lakh was spent on the two athletes who won India the medals.   -  S. GOPAKUMAR

It is not the amount of money spent on an athlete, but how well it is spent that dictates the performance in the Olympics. If anything, the Target Olympics Podium (TOP) Scheme clearly shows that the athletes were anxious to claim a lot of money, which they spent on experts and systems without really calculating the possible gains from the exercise.

However, it will be unfair to question someone like former World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, who has been meticulous in his preparations that did cost a lot of money. While answering a question in the Parliament, the government said a maximum of about Rs. 2.30 crore was spent on Abhinav, including about Rs. 73 lakh through the national federation.

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As we all remember, Abhinav, a gold medal winner in air rifle at the Beijing Olympics, missed a medal by 0.1 point in the 2016 Rio Games, and eventually lost the tie-shoot for the bronze medal in his fifth straight Olympics.

In fact, the team of 12 shooters has spent about an average of a crore each on individual preparation plans through the national federation. Apart from Abhinav, Jitu Rai qualified for the air pistol final, but missed making the free pistol final; rapid fire pistol shooter Gurpreet Singh and skeet shooter Mairaj Ahmad Khan narrowly missed making the finals.

In contrast, the government’s projection on the money spent on badminton star P. V. Sindhu, who shone the brightest by winning the silver medal, was about Rs. 44 lakh, and most of it through the national federation. Ironically, much against the general criticism that the doubles players were being ignored, the money spent on the four doubles specialists was on a par or above what Sindhu got.

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Nearly Rs. 1 crore was spent on the London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, who failed to make the quarterfinals from her group owing to a knee injury that required surgery, immediately upon her return to India.

About half-crore was spent on Kidambi Srikanth, who lost in the quarterfinals against the greatest badminton player of all time, Lin Dan of China, in a a match that went down to the wire.

The money hurriedly spent, without a long term plan of healthy development, may not derive much benefit, as was evident from the manner in which the four table tennis players lost in the first round at the Rio Olympics. About Rs. 1 crore was spent on them.

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As interesting as the case of Sindhu was the amount spent on the only other medal winner from India at the Rio Olympics, wrestler Sakshi Malik. About Rs. 16 lakh was spent on Sakshi, who courageously won the bronze. India could have won another medal in wrestling through Vinesh Phogat but she lost the quarterfinals owing to a knee injury that required surgery.

Medical staff attend to the injured Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat during her 48 kg bout at the Rio Olympics. Phogat came close to winning a medal, but lost the quarterfinal bout owing to the knee injury.   -  PTI

 

In effect, about Rs. 60 lakh was spent on the two athletes who won us the medals! Or at least that is what the figures projected by the authorities say.

India came close to winning a medal in tennis mixed doubles in Rio, but Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna lost the bronze medal play-off against the Czechs, Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradceka, after having lost in the semifinals to the Americans, Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram. Between the two, the government spent about Rs. 1 crore, with Bopanna getting 60 per cent of the amount, as he also played the men’s doubles with Leander Paes. And between Paes and Sania’s doubles partner Prarthana Thombare, another Rs. 80 lakh was spent, according to the updated figures in the government’s report, following its reply to a question in the Parliament in July 2016.

With 36 athletes qualifying for the Rio Olympics in track and field, a lot of money was spent on them. Barring Lalita Babbar, who had a top-10 finish, the marathoners, T. Gopi and Kheta Ram, who placed 25th and 26th respectively, and Manish Rawat, who finished 13th in the men’s 20 km walk, the rest had nothing much to show.

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The three golfers, generally thought to be better off on the professional circuit, did not derive much out of the TOP Scheme. Anirban Lahiri did not take any money, while about Rs. 7 lakh was spent on S. S. P. Chawrasia and Aditi Ashok. Perhaps, greater care could have helped them finish better than the 40s and 50s that they eventually managed.

About Rs. 1 crore in all was spent on the archers, who were seen as medal prospects. By opting not to have an expert coach with proven credentials, the archers failed once again. Without taking away any credit from the Indian coaches, the women’s team of Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Laxmi Rani Majhi could have struck a medal with better preparation and guidance. They lost a close contest to Russia in the quarterfinals.

About Rs. 1 crore was spent on the three boxers, Shiva Thapa, Vikas Krishan and Manoj Kumar. Vikas was battered in the quarterfinals, even though he was only a step away from an Olympic medal. The two swimmers, Sajan Prakash and Shivani Kataria, placed 28th and 41st respectively. About Rs. 8.50 lakh was spent on the two.

The lone judoka Avtar Singh was reluctant to claim much money for preparation as it could not be well utilised at the last minute.

The Rio Olympics proved that it was not for the lack of money and resources that the medals eluded the Indian athletes. In fact, money proved counter-productive, as a study by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) revealed. Shooting had the best support but drew a blank for the first time in four Olympics.

Easy money completely took the intensity and the focus out of some of the athletes.

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