With the curtains ready to come down on the Olympics and having had most of our athletes already compete, it is time to see how each one of them performed. There have been surprises, heartbreaks, easy victories and hard fought ones. Despite all that, each one of them has worked their blood, sweat and tears to put our country on a pedestal. Let's go through each one's effort.
1. NEERAJ CHOPRA - JAVELIN THROW
A proud moment was bestowed upon Indians in every corner of the earth. It was a time where each one of us could stand with our chest out. A moment which we have truly missed, listening to our own national anthem play during a medal ceremony. The last we heard it was 2008, Beijing. Not since 1980 has it played in an open stadium, let alone in an Athletics stadium.
But, after a gruelling 13 years, the wait was finally over when Neeraj Chopra, the 23 year old light of India, brad-shouldered, force of nature speared the javelin to bring home gold. In doing so, he joins Abhinav Bindra amongst the odd 1 billion Indians to have a gold medal in his locker.
''Even during the Olympics I didn't feel like I was competing in something new because of those competitions. I wasn't under pressure of competing with the rest of the javelin stars,'' Neeraj said. The young man from panipat recorded 87.03 in his first attempt, 87.58 in his second, subsequently 84.24m in his final attempt. Although his personal best ever is 88.07, he settled the argument against most throwers with his second attempt and in doing so has become a household name in India.
2. RAVI KUMAR - MENS 57kg FREESTYLE - WRESTLING
Ravi Kumar, the 23 year old wrestler from Sonipat handed India its second silver medal. In doing so, he is also the fifth Indian wrestler after KD Jadhav, Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, and Sakshi Malik to finish on the Olympic podium.
Ravi had beaten Pan American silver medallist Colombian Oscar Tigreros 13-2, Bulgarian Individual World Cup bronze medallist Georgi Vangelov 14-4 and double World medalist Kazakh Nurislam Sanayev ‘by fall’ to reach the final of the Olympic Games.
Kumar’s technical superiority gave him the edge after he came back 2-9 in the semi finals, after toppling Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan. But, unfortunately fell short in the finals against his Russian counterpart Zavur Uguev.
Nevertheless, his grit and determination will have the Indian flag waving for some time now as he registers himself a fabulous prospect for gold in the future.
3. MIRABAI CHANU - WOMEN'S 49kg - WEIGHTLIFTING
Mirabai Chanu ended India's 21-year wait for a weightlifting medal at the Olympics by clinching a silver medal in the 49kg category to open the country's account here on the very first day. The 26-year-old lifted a total of 202kg (87kg+115kg) to better Karnam Malleswari's bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. With this, she put behind her whatever curses were left of the 2016 Games, where she had failed to log a single legitimate clean and jerk lift.
The gold went to China's Hou Zhihui with an effort of 210kg (94kg+116kg) , while Windy Cantika Aisah of Indonesia took home the bronze with an effort of 194kg (84kg+110kg). Considering her weakness in the run up to the marquee event, Chanu attempted 84kg in her first snatch attempt. Manipur's weightlifter took her time and cleanly heaved the barbell.
She lifted 87kg in her next attempt and raised the weight to 89kg, which was 1kg more than her personal best of 88kg that she had lifted at the national championship last year. However, she was unable to better her personal best and settled for 87kg in the snatch event only behind leader Zhihui, who created a new Olympic record with an effort of 94kg.
4. LOVLINA BORGOHAIN - WOMEN'S WELTERWEIGHT - BOXING
Winning a medal is nothing new to Lovlina Borgohain. As an Indian woman boxer, she had previously won a bronze medal at the 2018 and 2019 AIBA Woman's World Boxing Championships. The Arjuna Awardee competed in the welterweight category.
Our debutant boxer, Lovlina Borgohain, scripted history by becoming the second female boxer to win a medal for India, after Mary Kom. The Assamese welterweight fighter bowed out after a well fought display against Turkey’s Surmemeli. Since there was no third place bout, there were 2 bronze medals handed out to respective boxers. The 23 year old has a long way to go in her career and will have plenty eyeing her as she progresses.
5. INDIAN MEN'S TEAM - HOCKEY
After being edged out by Belgium in the semi finals, the Indian Men's hockey team faced Germany in a game for bronze at the Oi hockey stadium in Tokyo. The last time an Indian men’s team won a medal in hockey was Moscow 1980. It took us a whole 41 years to get our hands on a well-deserved bronze.
Eventually our Indian heroes got the better of Germany by a slender 5-4 margin, enough to decorate ourselves with bronze. The Indian keeper described this campaign as 'rebirth', and rightfully so we have managed to go toe to toe with the heavy-weights and stamp our authority in the hockey atmosphere.
"The last 15 months was so difficult for us also, because we were in Bangalore, we spent too much time there away from the family," said the Indian men's hockey captain Manpreet Singh. He further added, ''We would like to dedicate this medal to doctors who have saved so many people's lives there in India and everywhere in this world. So, we'd like to dedicate this medal to those warriors.'' All in all, it’s beautiful to see India reignite it’s affair with field hockey, a sport which has given India 11 Olympic medals, including 8 golds between 1928-1980.
6. PV SINDHU - BADMINTON
Our 26 year old dynamic shuttler who hails from Hyderabad was anything but docile from the very start. She kept shutting down every opponent that shared the same court in straight sets. Such was her dominance before stamping her authority in the semi finals. However, a slight hiccup subsequently followed as she fell short to World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying from Taiwan.
As a third place finish was the only option left, PV Sindhu created history by winning the bronze medal match against China's He Bing Jiao at the Tokyo Olympics. She won the crucial encounter 21-13, 21-15 to become the first Indian woman ever to win two individual Olympic medals. She had lost the final of the women's singles event at the 2016 Rio Olympics to settle for a silver medal, unfortunately having to step further down to bronze this time.
After her loss to Tai-Tzu Ying in the semi finals, Sindhu needed to up her confidence by going strong into the bronze medal match, and that is exactly what she did. There were instances where it looked like her Chinese opponent tried getting into the game, but Sindhu shut down every possibility of that happening. Bing Jiao lost both sets by quite a margin, as Sindhu raced to a scintillating win, which majority would say was thoroughly deserved.
7. BAJRANG PUNIA - MEN’S 65kg FREESTYLE -
Wrestler Bajrang Punia beat Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov to win the bronze medal in the men's 65kg Freestyle category. Punia beat his opponent 8-0 to clinch the bronze medal. Social media erupted with praise of the 27-year-old from Haryana after his medal-winning heroics. Former India cricketers Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag were among the first to react, as was boxer Vijender Singh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter, praising the star wrestler for his efforts.
''Every athlete dreams of winning an Olympic medal. Thanks to the entire nation but I couldn't win the gold which I will try in Paris in 2024. Me, my coaches and support staff are now just focussed on the next Olympic Games,'' said Punia in an interview. Punia makes it to the hall of fame by becoming the 6th wrestler from India to win an Olympic medal.
India has recorded its best ever Olympic medal tally in its history. Evidently denoting that this Olympic campaign has been a step in the right direction to say the least. Especially, knowing we amassed more medals than we did in Rio. But, it is important for us to build from this and keep the momentum going in our favour, while simultaneously indulging in joyous celebrations, in the name of our talented ones.
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