By Yajurvindra Singh
Indian sportspersons, nowadays, are showcasing a very different persona and personality than ever before. This was already evident in their most popular sport, cricket, but has now extended into other sports as well.
The Olympics is the grandest sporting event, and the way every Indian sportsperson participating has approached it, is a good indicator that India will be a force to reckon with in the future.
Analysing performance on the basis of medals won is a fallacy. One has to look at the approach and confidence of all the Indian participants. The attitude is what has changed dramatically.
The Indian cricket team has been at the forefront of this massive change. The team established itself as one of the best in the world and therefore got billions to follow it. The hockey team, both the men and women, have in the Olympics 2020 shown that they too are as good if not better than most teams in the world. This is fabulous for team sports in India, as cricket and hockey have been the two popular sports of the country. Hockey, somehow lost its way, but both the men’s and women’s teams should be proud to have put it back on track.
One may consider India’s sporting achievements not being as good as those of many other countries at present but India being a developing nation has focused more on other essential areas that needed more attention than sporting encounters.
India has now progressed substantially as a country and is in a position to enhance itself as one that is set to make its mark in the sporting world.
Indians, one never imagined, with their physical profile and docile, submissive nature, would become so powerful in contact sports. India is now a force to reckon with in boxing and wrestling and with an icon like Mary Kom leading the way at the age of 38.
The youngsters following in her footsteps can see a longer future for themselves in their respective sports. Mary Kom along with Sachin Tendulkar, Leander Paes and M.S. Dhoni have shown that age is not a barrier and that hard work, fitness and dedication is all that is required to have a longer and more successful career.
The age factor was one of the most detrimental perceptions that had affected the minds of not just the selectors, administrators and coaches but even parents. Any sportsperson over the age of 30 was looked at as one who was over the hill and a veteran. This is one major area of change that has taken place all due to the legends mentioned earlier, who proved that age was just a number. This has led to sportspersons in India pursuing their dream of achieving their goals in a longer span of time.
The major reason for this change is the extensive growth of multi-media and the reach through television and digital world. Success has brought in financial gains and stardom for sportspersons. The quest of being a part of it has become a dream and aspiration for many.
The rags-to-riches stories that were associated more with cricket have gradually filtered into other individual and team sports.
This is the reason Indian sports will flourish like never before in the future. An Indian sportsperson now has the the best of facilities, equipment, coaches, fitness trainers and financial assistance at his disposal. Sporting success speaks very much about the health of a country. The Indian government has been pushing the sports agenda but it is the people’s movement that will ultimately bring about a change. They want to see Indian sporting heroes and the ardent fan following is what has brought about a buzz in India’s sporting world.
The shooting and archery stars may have not done as well as one wanted them to but the victories that they have had at the World and Asian Championships, do them enough credit to be called winners.
The Olympics, similar to the Cricket World Cup, has normally a 4-year cycle and this is what makes it exciting. An athlete, therefore, has a definite goal and although one looks ready to achieve one’s dream of getting a medal, the pressure of doing so becomes enormous.
Simone Biles from the USA, considered one of the greatest gymnasts ever, having won 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, succumbed to the mental pressure after the first day at the 2020 Olympics.
The incident speaks volumes of why others also fall victim to this pressure. One has to admire every sportperson who has qualified to participate in the greatest of sporting events, the Olympics. The hard work, dedication and the hours of practice that each one has put in is enormous and it is their effort that keeps the sporting event ignited.
India is moving rapidly into becoming a sporting country. This for a population of over 1.3 billion people, one hopes, is just the first step into the rise of a sporting culture. The buzz will then become a reality.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer)