The elusive Olympian heights!

Even for the best of champions, the Olympics has been a slippery slope for many reasons. Of course, dominating the world is a good way to prepare for the Olympics, but that does not guarantee favourable results.

Published : Jul 28, 2016 23:03 IST

Anju Bobby George's attempt at an Olympic medal was buried in the mud of Athens in 2004.
Anju Bobby George's attempt at an Olympic medal was buried in the mud of Athens in 2004.

Anju Bobby George's attempt at an Olympic medal was buried in the mud of Athens in 2004.

World champion Abhinav Bindra becoming the Olympic champion in Beijing in 2008 was a rare phenomenon in the history of Indian sports.

He has been the only Indian who has been World and Olympic champion in an individual event at the same time.

Wrestler Sushil Kumar who won the bronze in Beijing and silver in the London Olympics 2012, was the only other World Champion in the Indian context, who also stood the chance of becoming an Olympic champion, before he was jolted by a Court verdict, stopping him having a trial fight with Narsingh Yadav, let alone go to the Rio Olympics.

It has to be admitted that very few Indian stars have been dominant on the world stage, but they have not been able to translate that success into Olympic glory. Trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu readily comes to mind, as he won the World Championship gold in 2006 in Zagreb like Bindra, but has not yet managed to win an Olympic medal in three attempts so far.

Anjali Bhagwat was another top class shooter who dominated the world and even forced the Chinese to envy her.

After making the final of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she was unable to move logically forward and be at her best in Athens 2004 and Beijing.

Boxer Akhil Kumar bounced back from being down 2-6 to beat the reigning World champion Sergey Vodopyanov, but a medal eluded him in Beijing as he lost in the quarterfinals. Vijender Singh managed to get one for Indian boxing.

Limba Ram and Deepika Kumari were world class archers, but missed the target in Barcelona 1992 and London 2012 respectively. Time flies, but regrets persist in Indian archery.

Long jumper Anju Bobby George was able to win the World Championship medal, but the Olympic medal eluded her grasp despite a career best jump of 6.83 metres in Athens.

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi dominated the world in doubles tennis, and were the No. 1 team for long, winning the titles at the French Open and Wimbledon. But they missed the bronze medal in Athens in a long drawn fight against Croats, Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic. That was the closest they came to a medal in four Olympics since Atlanta in 1996.

One of the most decorated weightlifters, Kunjarani Devi, was a dominant force, but did not get the chance to win an Olympic medal in her prime when women’s lifting was introduced in the Sydney Olympics.

Boxer Mary Kom, for all her accomplishments as a five-time World Champion, could get only a bronze medal after being outclassed in the semifinals by Briton Nicola Adams in the London Olympics, when women’s boxing made an entry.

For some of the champions of the world, not winning an Olympic gold may be treated as a failure. Roger Federer, a tennis Grand Slam behemoth, was very upset about not getting hold of an individual medal in the Olympics. Then he won the doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in the Beijing Games and the silver behind Andy Murray in London in 2012, when tennis was played at Wimbledon!

While Rafael Nadal has been able to win the Olympics gold in Beijing, world No.1 Novak Djokovic, with 12 Grand Slam titles, has only one bronze medal to show from the Games.

One of the greatest long jumpers in history, Mike Powell, with a world record jump of 8.95 metres that broke Bob Beamon’s 23-year-old record, and fetched him gold in the World Championships in 1991, could not get the Olympic gold and had to be content with two silver medals behind Carl Lewis.

And a super athlete like Sergey Bubka, a six-time World Champion who set world records at will in pole vault, had a miserable time at the Olympics even though he did win the gold in Seoul 1988. Bubka did not clear the height at 5.70 metres in both the Barcelona and the Sydney Olympics, while in the intervening Atlanta 1996, a heel injury prevented him from competing. It was a shocker from a man who had taken the world record to 6.14 metres.

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, world No. 1 for 199 successive weeks, is yet to win a World Championship or Olympic gold. The great badminton player from China, Lin Dan, proved the stumbling block both the times, winning easily in Beijing and in stark contrast, 21-19 in the third game, in London.

Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, who later shifted to Slovenia, won three gold medals in the World Championships, but could not go beyond three silver and nine bronze medals in seven Olympic attempts from 1980 to 2004.

For all his domination in the 100 metres, former World record holder Jamaican Asafa Powell, only has a relay gold medal to show from the Olympics.

The doctor who ran the first sub-four minute mile in history in 1954, Sir Roger Bannister, was not able to win an Olympic medal earlier in the 1500 metres in Helsinki 1952, where he finished fourth in a dramatic race. Brazil, which has won the football World Cup five times, appearing in all the editions, has managed to win only three silver and two bronze medals in the Olympics. No gold medal for the greatest football power in the world! Maybe, Rio will change that!

Despite dominating long distance running for decades, Kenya has won only one men’s marathon gold, through Samuel Wanjiru, in the Beijing Games. Wanjiru, who was the youngest to win the gold in the marathon since 1932, died at the age of 25 when he fell from his balcony following a domestic dispute in 2011.

Hurdler Colin Jackson and middle-distance runner Steve Cram had to settle for Olympic silver medals after having dominated their events. Worse was the case with another British athlete, Paula Radcliffe, as she did not win a medal in four Olympics, despite her domination of the long distance and marathon events.

Australian Ron Clarke never won an Olympic gold, or a silver for that matter, despite setting 17 world records. He held all the world records at one stage from two miles to 20 kilometres.

One of the greatest javelin throwers of all time, Steve Backley of Britain, won medals in three Olympics, but never the gold, despite the world records that kept coming against his name.

Eamonn Coghlan, the Irish senator, won the world championship gold in 5000 metres in 1983, but placed fourth in successive Olympics in 1976 and 1980.

Even for the best of champions, the Olympics has been a slippery slope for many reasons. Of course, dominating the world is a good way to prepare for the Olympics, but that does not guarantee favourable results. Olympics is a mystery of its own, to be solved in isolation, not to be taken for granted as a logical result of global dominance.

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