New Delhi: Ending career on a high is one thing every athlete dreams of but there are very few who fulfill it. As India sends its biggest contingent to the Rio Olympics, some of the most decorated sports stars from the country will make their last appearance at the Games and will hope to make the most of it.
While Abhinav Bindra and Yogeshwar Dutt have officially announced Rio 2016 as their last Olympics, the likes of Leander Paes, Sardar Singh, Vikas Gowda and Seema Punia are in the twilight of their careers, and Rio could possibly be their last shot at a medal.
Abhinav Bindra (Shooting)
Indian shooting entered record books when on August 11, 2008, Bindra won country’s first ever individual Olympic gold with a stunning comeback victory in the men's 10 metres air rifle event in Beijing. Bindra has been honoured with India's third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, and won the Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna at a very young age. He is currently ranked 13th in the world in the 10 metres air rifle; and appearing in his fifth Olympics, the man from Chandigarh will aim for another 'golden' glory in his swan song.
Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling)
Yogeshwar, the bronze medallist in the 60-kg Freestyle at London four years ago, is the most successful Indian wrestler after Sushil Kumar. He won a gold at the Asian Olympic qualifying event in Astana to book his quota for Rio and the way he has made a comeback from injuries in the last two years is commendable. He is the senior-most Indian wrestler in the contingent and the only one with previous Olympics experience, and the way he has trained makes you believe he is man on a mission to complete his dream of winning an Olympic gold.
Leander Paes (Tennis)
He has won 18 Grand Slam doubles titles, is the holder of India's only Olympic medal in tennis and at Rio he will create history by appearing in his seventh Olympics. At 43, Leander is one of most accomplished sportspersons India has ever had and he will be raring to clinch another medal at Rio with his doubles' partner Rohan Bopanna. Bopanna had picked world number 125 Saketh Myneni as his preferred partner but the All India Tennis Association named Paes as his partner for the mega event. Although Leander continues to defy age as just a number, seeing him play at 47 in another Olympics has odds stacked against it.
Sardar Singh (Hockey)
Sardar Singh has not had a good year both on and off the astro-turf. After being involved in a controversy with his alleged fiancee, Sardar lost the captaincy of Indian men’s hockey team for the Rio Games. He was not part of the Indian team that had an outstanding show at the Champions Trophy in London and won a historic silver medal. The 30-year-old will have to play a key role if India were to win a medal at Rio. Once seen as the face of Indian hockey, Sardar is no more the leader of the pack but he will be desperate to finish his Olympic journey with a medal.
Vikas Gowda (Discus Throw)
India has never been known for producing big names in the track and field arena; so whenever a player reaches the final of an event, it's a big achievement. Discus-thrower Vikas Gowda has done much more than that. He clinched a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and won another gold at Jamaican International Invitation meet at Kingston in 2015. His personal best throw of 66.28 meters in 2012 is also an Indian national record. The 6 feet-nine-inch Mysore lad is India's biggest hope in athletics and though he is not a strong medal contender, he has the ability to surprise opponents on his day. Vikas is 33 now and Rio will most likely be his last chance shot at an Olympic medal.
Seema Punia (Discus Throw)
Gold medal at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, silver medals at the 2006 Melbourne and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games are discus-thrower Seema Punia's biggest achievements. Seema has a personal best throw of 64.84 metres, which she achieved in 2004. This will be her third Olympics and at 33 could probably be her last as well. A top-five finish will be a good result, but if she can somehow win a medal, then it will be a massive achievement for Indian athletics.