I AM guessing all of you are glued to the Olympics notwithstanding another of those usual meaningless India vs Sri Lanka cricket series and probably grimacing and wincing as prospect after Indian prospect wilts away in the heat of the competition. A list of early casualties – The Men’s and Women’s archery teams, weightlifter Sonia Chanu, shooter Heena Sidhu and boxer Shiva Thapa. Maybe you’re doing what this gentleman is suggesting on Twitter. And while all the hype and the hoopla surrounding India’s best potential squad at an Olympics in
years decades is all good, far too many of us seem to be bandwagon jumpers impatiently waiting for a medal out of thin air so that Facebook photos and clever tweets can be shared about it.
In its current absence though we have resorted to downright naïve and juvenile bandying around of statistics such as ‘China won more medals on day one than India has won since 1960’ while displaying a casual, almost callous disregard for contextualization. This is the Olympics – the greatest sporting event on earth. Every athlete who is there has earned his/her place under the London sun (or maybe intermittent rain; I mean, with the British weather you never know) and we have to understand sometimes the vast gulf in standard and appreciate at others the low margin of error that could result in our athletes not ending up on the podium. That doesn’t necessarily diminish the incredible stories each one has. Whether it’s a young Soumyajit Ghosh in TT who made it past the first round or an asthma beating Parupalli Kashyap (who won his first badminton match in the singles) each one has an inspirational story to tell. Yes, a much vaunted Indian archery women’s team flopped in its pre quarterfinal against Denmark, but the margin of error was so low that two scores of 6s saw India losing by a point although we hit more 10s (the highest possible score). And that’s why we should accept randomness and look at being inspired instead and offer encouragement to these performers. The archery team itself has three incredible young women, Deepika Kumari prime among them and if we let them be, her time to shine will also come. As someone once said ‘the past can neither be altered nor forgotten; it can only be accepted’. We want the current athletes to set our anemic Olympic past right before yesterday, but it will take a generation.
Look at the current squad – Deepika Kumari, born 1994, Soumyajit Ghosh (world no. 205 Table tennis player who played quite well against his 30 or so ranked opponent), born 1993, Saina Nehwal, born 1990, Shiva Thapa, born 1994, Heena Sidhu, born 1989. These are all liberalization generation children who have grown up in a liberalized India and they all need support and nurture not judgment and abandonment. Having expectations is rational; expecting all of them to be fulfilled is what is irrational. And for those thinking ‘It’s the job of these sportspersons to succeed’ let me remind you that in most cases Olympians are amateur sportspersons, or in other words those who whether they succeed or not will still have to hunt for alternative means of livelihood.
These new kids have the right attitude – after Ashwini Ponappa and Jwala Gutta lost their opening doubles match in badminton, Ponappa candidly admitted that she made ‘stupid mistakes’ and took it in her stride. Swuro, when she hit one of those 6s in the archery still could turn around and smile it off, not out of being not serious but knowing that letting the pressure get to you is worse. There’s a lot you can learn watching these little things than counting how many medal chances went begging and scampering for the nearest remote to see what happened to India v Sri Lanka at the first sign of trouble.
Sadly all our grand posturing before the Games disappears 24 hours into competition because as sports fans of the country (or even of other countries’ sportspersons/teams) we are fickle hearted nitwits who generally only understand the currency of winning (legions of casual-to-the-point-of-being-ignorant Man Utd fans are testimony to that trait!). Maybe that was some kind of sycophantic bureaucratic legacy but these new kids are shedding it and believing in themselves and perhaps we should show a little more conviction too. And patience.
Citius-may we be swift in our appreciation but not in our judgment. Altius-May our expectations be high but patience be higher. Fortius-May our belief in our athletes be strong but our belief in their integrity be stronger. Happy watching.