Jewels of Tokyo
India had its best ever performance at the Tokyo Olympics this year, winning seven medals. The Games are the pinnacle, the Mount Everest of sporting achievement and have no doubt ignited fresh national pride and inspired a new generation to reach for their dreams.
GOLD, Men’s Javelin Throw
Neeraj Chopra won India’s first-ever medal of any colour in track and field at the Olympics. The 24-year old led throughout the competition from the qualifiers to the finals. His almighty heave of 87.58m on the second attempt in the finals yielded India only its second ever Gold in an individual event. Silver and Bronze were both snagged by the Czech Republic. German world No. 1 Johannes Vetter finishing ninth was the biggest surprise of the event. Indians all over the world erupted with joy as the tri-color was raised and the anthem was played at the stadium. Neeraj Chopra’s historic feat ensured that India ended the Tokyo Olympics on a golden note.
BRONZE, Men’s Field Hockey
India ended its 41-year wait for an Olympic medal in Hockey. Before this drought India was the dominant force in world Hockey. India's eight Gold medals remains the highest for any hockey team in the history of the Olympics. The end of India’s supremacy had coincided with a shift of playing surface from grass to Astro-turf. While grass, on which hockey had been played interna
tionally for nearly a century, allowed the high skill Indian technical game to flourish, Astro-turf suits the physicality of European and Australian players based on raw power rather than technical skill. In arguably the most important medal of the Tokyo games, India returned to its winning ways this year and showed plenty of skill and courage to top Germany 5-4 to clinch the bronze medal. Earlier in the semi-final, India went down fighting to world number 1 and eventual gold medal winner Belgium. Drag-flick specialists Harmanpreeet Singh with 6 goals and Rupinder Pal Singh with 4 top scored. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh produced plenty of stunning saves through the competition. The level of game shown by the team fill the country with hope that India will again return to its rightful place at the top. As coach Graham Reid categorically put it, “Watch this space, we’ll do more.” However it was heartbreak for the Indian women’s hockey team. A maiden medal in women’s hockey remained elusive as they lost 4-3 to Great Britain in a pulsating bronze medal face-off.
SILVER, Women’s 49Kg Weightlifting
Mirabai Chanu won India’s first medal and opened India’s account at the games this year with an impressive 87 kg in snatch and 115 kg in the clean and jerk segment. Her 1000-watt smile at the incredible performance and victory lit Tokyo and India. Mirabai is a recipient of the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and Padma Sri. She is the first weightlifter to win a silver at the Olympics and the second Indian woman to clinch an Olympic silver. Moments after the historic win she said, ”I tried my best for gold but I am very happy to win the first medal for India at these Games. I don't belong to Manipur, I belong to the whole country," she added in response to a query on what it meant for her state. That’s what champions are made of. Indeed she is the pride of India with her remarkable feat. Mirabai’s courage and national spirit will inspire a new generation of men and women lifters in India.
SILVER, Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 57kg
Ravi Kumar Dahiya etched his name in the history books as only the second Indian wrestler to win a silver medal at the Olympics. The finals with Russia's Zaur Ugeyev was a close one and Ravi was visibly disappointed to miss out on Gold. The two-time Asian champion is now channelising his energy for Paris 2024. He says: “I’m going to gear up and prepare. This experience will help me do even better and bring home gold next time. I will work hard till then!” In honour of his victory, an indoor wrestling stadium equipped with modern facilities, will be built in his village Nahari. Dahiya adds, “It’s great news! Nahari has sent athletes to the Olympics in the past as well, and needs better facilities. I’m glad that youngsters there will get more opportunities to train.”
BRONZE, Women’s Welterweight Boxing
23-year old boxing champ Lovlina Borgohain defeated World Number 2 Chinese Taipei's Chen Nien-chin by 4-1 in the quarter-finals to win a bronze medal. The composed youngster trained hard and soon realised that physical fitness is not enough at the highest level. She meditates to strate gise her bouts and handle stress. She wants Gold in Paris. She certainly has the talent to achieve it but will have to build her strength and speed to beat her nemesis and world number 1 B Surmeneli of Turkey. Lovlina has become only the third Indian boxer to finish on the Olympic podi um, joining two icons in Indian boxing Mary Kom and Vijender Singh.
BRONZE, Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 65kg
Bajrang Punia came into the Tokyo Olympics as one India's biggest medal hopes. The triple World Championship medallist met his fellow countrymen’s expectations as he recorded a comprehen sive 8-0 victory over Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan to claim a bronze medal. Bajrang had also won gold at the 2018 Asian Games. Mud wrestling is a centuries old tradition of Haryana and the re gion’s world class wrestlers have brought India great international recognition in the sport. Inspira tion from stellar performances by Bajrang and Ravi Kumar in Tokyo and investments in sporting facilities will no doubt spur Indian wrestling to even greater heights in Paris.
SILVER, Women’s Badminton
History was made when PV Sindhu became the first Indian woman to claim two Olympic medals after she won a bronze medal in Tokyo, adding to her silver from Rio 2016. The 2019 World Championships gold medallist and poster girl of Indian Badminton overcame a 6-9 win-loss record against China's He Bing Jiao to win 21-13, 21-15. Since Rio she has gone from strength to strength defending better and making fewer errors. A powerful forehand crosscourt slice played from behind the shoulders is the weapon she used to great effect to win her bronze medal match.
Mankind today is divided in a thousand ways by religion, by nationalities, by race, by socio economic status and Olympics provides a very important forum that promotes global goodwill and security. It is a beacon of hope for a peaceful future and for collaboration of mankind in all spheres. In fact in a tradition originating in ancient Greece a "truce" (Greek: ékécheiria, meaning "laying down of arms") was announced before and during the Olympic Games to ensure the host city was not attacked and athletes and spectators could compete and travel safely to the Games from their respective countries. The International Olympic Committee has renewed this tradition by calling upon all nations to observe “Truce” during the Games. Winning and losing are part of sport as they are part of life. So as much as we celebrate the achievements of our champions we also appreci ate India’s participation since 1900 in the iconic event of humanity called the Olympic Games.
In a country where sport is equated to cricket it is indeed heartening to see the adulation and support India’s Olympics contingent is receiving from Indians all over. 2021 has been a year like no other. The virus has not heeded the “truce” and COVID-19 continued its spread across In dia and the world causing great death and distress. So we are thankful to these athletes for train ing in challenging circumstances and for bringing joy to the country. The government, companies and even private citizens have announced many awards in cash and benefits to felicitate the Olympic contingent. These sports men and women who have succeeded at the world stage are role models for the youngsters of the country for the purity in their pursuit of excellence. They over come distractions, financial pressures and lack of facilities to achieve their dreams and the dreams of India. There are no short cuts, no marketing gimmicks, no family connections and no social me dia buzz that can bring you Olympic glory. Only talent, years of training, discipline and focus. All Congratulations, Felicitations and Best Wishes to these jewels of India!