Forget medals in Tokyo

Forget medals in Tokyo


There are exactly nine months to go for the postponed Tokyo Olympics to be inaugurated. If one is take stock of the Indian athletes’ preparations and “medal chances”, the scenario looks extremely bleak.

If one rewinds to March 2020, there was immense optimism in the air over India’s chances. The experts had said India could win a lot of medals this July. Once the Olympics got postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a collective sigh of relief.

From March till September, the resumption of sport has been so slow, you can stop hyping India’s medal chances when the Games begin on July 23, 2021. If lockdown had first done the damage, post various stages of Unlockdown in India, resumption of sports training and holding events has been muffled.

To be sure, the world over, sports has resumed in full swing. From professional football leagues to golf, tennis, and many other blue riband sport like athletics, athletes are not just in training but competing in big events.

Neeraj Chopra

In India, there seems to be some kind of a fear psychosis haunting the athletes. As of September 23, 2020, many camps have resumed, but this is just not enough. There is a  huge difference between training and competition.

Word has it that from track and field stars to boxing and the famed wrestlers, there is huge hesitancy to be in the arena and compete. The wrestling camps have been postponed repeatedly. The way Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat are posting on social media, they hardly seem to be priming up for the Olympics. To call them medal hopeful at the Tokyo Olympics, as of now, will be a huge exaggeration.

The other day, Graham Reid, men’s hockey coach, had talked of how valuable time has been lot. The FIH Pro League has resumed in Europe and in India the players are still  in a dilemma whether they should go full press. Yes, six players tested positive for Covid-19 and they cannot be pushed into hard training. Yet, it is quite surprising that someone like Surender Kumar, the deep defender, is in training despite being put on blood thinner for DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in his arm. Indian hockey has no competitions coming up and that is worrying.

Agreed, post Covid-19 trauma, athletes have to be monitored carefully. Yet, one cannot be afraid of contracting the virus and not train at full steam. Certain sport like shooting have moved retrograde. There is no national camp till now and training at home or at the ranges minus serious supervision from coaches will only do damage.

Perhaps, the right approach has been adopted by the tennis  players like Sumit Nagal, Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Ankita Raina. They are playing abroad and hoping at least some can make the cut for the Olympics. Bopanna is 40 and played the US Open minus any fear. He will next be appearing at the French Open.

Golfers, too are part of the pro tour abroad.

So, who really is responsible for this state of sheer inertia in Indian sport? The National Sports Federations, now de-recognised, the Indian Olympic Association, the sports  ministry and the Sports Authority of India need to do urgent introspection. Merely cribbing over no recognition will  not help.

Oh yes, how does one forget Fouaad MIrza, the rider who is training abroad with zero help from the SAI or the comatose Equestrian Federation of India. The next time sports minister Kiren Rijiju says India will finish in the Top 10 at the 2024 Olympics, ask him how many medals India will win in 2021?

The scenario is not bleak, but scary. The athletes and all stakeholders need to be woken up from deep slumber. The fear of Corona virus cannot grip elite athletes so crazily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *