New Delhi, August 8 (UNI): As the curtains come down on the XXXII Olympics at Tokyo 2020, India has several reasons to celebrate and look towards the future with hope.
Beyond sending its biggest ever contingent to the Summer Games, India is also coming home with its biggest ever medals haul at a single Olympics with seven medals (1 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze), bettering the London 2012 Olympics by one medal.
However, Tokyo 2020 (the only Olympics to be postponed due to a pandemic) goes beyond the medals. It was like the coming of age for Indian sports.
For a cricket crazy nation, which had struggled to win medals at the Olympics, beyond the odd bronze medal (1996, 2000), to a single silver (2004), India at the Olympics started showing signs of improvement from the 2008 Beijing Olympics where we won our first individual gold (Abhinav Bindra, shooting) and two bronze medals, making it the most successful Olympics for India till then.
Since then, India has been improving our medal tally. But in Tokyo, not only did India achieve its best medals tally so far, in a wide variety of sports, athletics, boxing, wrestling, hockey, sailing, table tennis and badminton, but it also made the debut in several new sports like fencing, equestrian, sailing, golf etc and made a mark in them.
Bhavani Devi won India its maiden bout in fencing, Faoud Mirza performing credibly in equestrian and Aditi Ashok missed the bronze by a whisker.
While the audience back home were hoping to do well in badminton, wrestling, shooting, archery and boxing, one of the most heartening things for India was the revival of Indian hockey at the Tokyo Olympics.
From being a hockey superpower (8 golds, 1 silver, 3 bronze) in the 20th century, to failing to qualify (2008) and finishing last (London 2012), Indian hockey finally seemed to turn the corner at Tokyo 2020.
The icing on the cake was Neeraj Chopra winning India’s first ever gold medal in athletics.
The sheer confidence in Chopra’s throw with him not even waiting to see his throw land and raising his arms in celebration, spoke a lot about how far Indian sports had come, especially at the Olympics, from the near dry spell of the 1980s and 1990s.
On a poignant note, Chopra’s success was a perfect tribute to Indian great Milkha Singh, who died recently of Covid wishing to see India win a medal in the track and field event at the Olympics.
Chopra dedicated his gold medal to the Flying Sikh, as Milkha Singh was affectionately called.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he would be hosting the entire Indian contingent for tea to thank them and facilitate them and the native states announcing cash rewards for the athletes.