Preparation good, can the Indians land some medals?

With a dozen medals in the last five Olympics, a record haul of six in the last edition in London, India has earned respect in the global sporting arena, after it had thrived on the memories of eight hockey gold medals in the earlier 100 years of its existence at the Games.

Indian schoolchildren make a formation of Olympic rings to wish Indian players good luck ahead of the Rio Olympics, in Ahmedabad on Thursday.   -  AP

The trend has been great, and the buoyant hope is to ride on the momentum and live up to the growing faith of a billion plus populace.

With a dozen medals in the last five Olympics, a record haul of six in the last edition in London, India has earned respect in the global sporting arena, after it had thrived on the memories of eight hockey gold medals in the earlier 100 years of its existence at the Games.

It is to the great credit of Leander Paes, who changed the fortunes with the most improbable Olympic medal in tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Games, that he is out there, ready to fight it out in his seventh successive Olympics. No Indian has accomplished that. In fact, many things that Paes has achieved in his illustrious career are beyond the realms of dreams for even some of the finest sportspersons the country has ever produced.

Whether the 43-year-old Paes signs off with a medal or not, there is a guarantee that there will be medals for India. Except for 1992 in Barcelona when he looked up to archer Limba Ram for a medal in his debut Olympics, Paes has always been part of squads that have won Olympic medals.

The tremendous support from every quarter, especially the government, which has loosened the purse strings, could possibly reflect in the enhanced haul. Yet, for people who have already started counting a double digit medal haul, there has to be a reminder that India has won only 26 medals since the first modern Olympics began in 1896.

Enhanced levels of expectations

To a great extent, the enhanced levels of expectations are a true reflection of the performance of our sportspersons who have scaled new peaks, powered by the bullets fired by the shooters who have taken Indian sports forward.

As Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, who took a fresh guard for Indian sports with that silver medal in Athens in 2004, put it so beautifully the other day, Indian athletes need to give their best and allow destiny to reveal itself!

Even as someone like Abhinav Bindra, who took the baton forward from Rathore to clinch the gold in Beijing in 2008, conceded recently, the results are bound to crop up in the mind. It was thus important to accept it, so as to focus better on the process.

Golden sunset

The 33-year-old Bindra is also right here, looking for a golden sunset. Nobody in Indian sports has been a World and Olympic champion, let alone hold the titles at the same time.

There was a hope that Sushil Kumar, the former World champion with a silver and bronze medal in the Olympics could join Bindra. However, wrestling, which was catapulted to glorious heights by Sushil, will be the poorer by his absence this time.

Sushil possibly got carried away by the power he wielded, as many a coach got the Dronacharya award on the weight of an affidavit from him.

It is a relief that Narsingh Yadav might well fight on the mat after all after having been caught in a doping controversy. The focus though, has shifted to the bronze medallist of the London Games, Yogeshwar Dutt, who is confidently eyeing the gold and has no inhibitions about saying so.

Woman power

Woman power had accounted for two bronze medals in London through Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal. While Mary Kom, the five-time world champion, missed the bus to Rio, the badminton heroine Saina, who had reached World No.1 status apart from clinching silver medals in the World Championship and the All-England Championship, could make a logical progression from the quarterfinals in Beijing and the semifinals in London, to possibly the final.

Champions are used to jumping the hurdles and Saina has some of the toughest hurdles to clear to ensure entry into the medal rounds.

Sania Mirza, the women’s No.1 doubles player, has been on a golden streak and holds the maximum number of tennis medals by an Indian in the Asian Games. The Olympic medal is something close to her heart, especially after she had felt robbed of it in the last edition. Will better credentials and a trusted partner power Sania to realise her dreams? Only time will tell.

Similarly, Rohan Bopanna would do well to remember that Paes won all his 18 Grand Slam titles after bagging the Olympic medal. Maybe, Bopanna can get a Grand Slam trophy through the same path! For his benefit, the 36-year-old Bopanna will get two chances at the medal.

There is still a lot of hope pinned on the boxers even though only three have made it this time.

The wrestlers, especially the women, carry a lot of hope.

Medal hopes

There is a Saina impact on Indian badminton, and P.V. Sindhu could shoulder some of the burden, as she showed by winning World Championship medals twice.

Another heroine at 22, Deepika Kumari, could shine if she sums up courage to be at her best. The women's archery team is also world class, as it showed by winning the silver in the World Championship.

The return of golf has triggered hopes of medals from Anirban Lahiri and S. S. P. Chawrasia, particularly in the light of the big stars pulling out. The track and field stars like Tintu Luka or Vikas Gowda are modest and realistic in hoping to reach the semifinals and finals, even though the spurt of performances in recent weeks by many has triggered a sensational talk of medals.

The fact that Dipa Karmakar has given us the courage to dream of vaulting to an Olympic medal in gymnastics, aptly sums up the trend in Indian sports. It is for the athletes to convert part of these dreams into reality, as the billions around the world get ready to watch them.