Monday, December 6, 2010

India's new sporting heros have sown seeds for a rewarding 2012 olympics

After a fortnight of gruelling sport, India's athletes, with their best ever Asian Games medal haul ” 14 gold, 17 silver, 33 bronze ” here in Guangzhou, have proved that they are now ready to take the big leap in international sporting glory at London 2012.

India's Joseph G Abraham competes in the men's 400m hurdles heats during the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. PIC/Getty Images
This is not to suggest that India have conquered the Asian sporting circuit. India is far from doing that. But, the fact that Guangzhou has thrown up a brand new breed of Indian sporting talent, besides the regular faces, goes to show that with a little more hard work India can repeat history and attain its highest ever medal tally at the Olympics too. It's not that the athletes have a huge tally to overcome anyway ” India won just one gold (Abhinav Bindra in shooting), and two bronze medals (Vijender Singh in boxing and Sushil Kumar in wrestling) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lal Takhar (rowing gold), Sanam Singh (men's tennis doubles gold), Vikas Krishan (men's boxing gold), Preeja Sreedharan (women's 10,000m & 4x400m relay golds), Ashwini Akkunji (women's 400m hurdles & 4x400m relay golds), Joseph Abraham (men's 400m hurdles gold) and Sudha Singh (women's 3000m steeplechase gold) were definitely not front page material until a fortnight ago.

It all started of course with Pankaj Advani, India's billiards ace, who repeated his Doha gold medal-winning feat. Unfortunately, cue sports aren't
included at the Olympics.

The rest of Advani's teammates here however now carry on their promising shoulders the burden of a billion-plus medal hopes at the Olympic Games. Thankfully all of them realise the significance of what lies ahead. "I can't afford to be over-confident now. I want to concentrate on the London Olympics," men's 400m hurdles champ Joseph Abraham said. "We finished seventh in the relay in Beijing. We want to do well in London," said Manjeet Kaur, women's 4x400m winner.

World No 1 pugilist Vijender Singh too can't wait for 2012. "After Beijing and now Guangzhou, I want to win an Olympic gold medal,"  he said. Then of course, India also has its existing super heroes in the likes of shooters Bindra, Gagan Narang, Ronjan Sodhi, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Tejaswini Sawant, boxers Vijender Singh, Suranjoy Singh, wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar, tennis ace Somdev Devvarman, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi ” all proven champions on the international stage. They too will inevitably be training hard for London given that some of them missed out here. And as for the next Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in 2014, a good outing in London will almost automatically guarantee success there too. Overall, India could not have had a better stepping stone to possible success in London thanks to Guangzhou.

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