Rio 2016: India's Olympic Fears Return in Rio but Why Ridicule the Athletes

Abhinav Bindra. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Abhinav Bindra. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Undoubtedly athletes need to deliver after getting everything they needed to train for the Olympics, but ridiculing them on public platform will only make things worse.

New Delhi: “Four years for one day, sometimes a few minutes or seconds.” Neha Aggarwal, the Indian table tennis player, measured it to perfection. That’s Olympics. An athlete may begin by calling it a dream and end up mulling why it turned cruel. The nation sends off its contingent with best wishes but may be left wondering why it didn’t happen. That’s the nature of the beast.

Sometimes you don’t want sport to teach lessons. You had had enough of the cliche. A win is all that matters to you. But still that moment keeps a distance. The pre-games soliloquy why I/we shouldn’t turns into why I/we couldn’t , which is always the tougher one to find an answer within.

India and its athletes have been through that in most editions of the Olympic Games. Only 21 medals since independence is a disappointing stat. And the 22nd is yet to arrive at Rio 2016. That it will, or disastrously not, is to be known; but India came the closest on Monday.

“Somebody had to be fourth,” said a relaxed Abhinav Bindra even as his countrymen back home made all kinds of observations after his miss in Rio.

The 2008 champion lost a shoot-off for the bronze medal in 10m Air Rifle event, but he already had it behind him the moment he stepped out of the range.

“That’s the way it is. I can’t change it. So why think back,” he told CNN-News18 denying any thoughts of regrets. “I think I did a good job.”

Bindra is different in that sense, an exception to those who spend a lifetime finding answers to ‘why I/we couldn’t’. He is detached from the task once it’s over. That’s him.

It could be because he had been there and done it, has nothing to prove. He had seen the tricolour go up and the Indian National Anthem play in the background. He is India’s only individual gold medal winner. It’s not that Bindra didn’t want another Olympic medal. He tried his best for it.

Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.


The women archery team of Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani Majhi was considered a medal contender, but lost in the quarters to Russia. Jitu Rai qualified for the 10m air pistol final but was the first to be eliminated there. The men’s hockey team conceded a goal in the last three seconds to lose to Germany.

Deepika is a former world No. 1 recurve archer. Rai is world No. 3 in 10m air pistol. They had had the better of same set of opponents at the world stage, but when it comes to Olympics, it just gets different and difficult for some of our champions.

For four years they wait for this day; and when it arrives, they just aren’t there.

It has to be nothing else but the Olympic pressure, the possibility of another four-year wait, of fighting to secure an Olympic berth all over again, the fight to stay ahead of others for another four years.

Surely that plays on the mind of every athlete of every country, but somehow the Indians fail to win over their fears and succumb to it. The psyche has remained the same, year on year. That’s where the change is required on the athletes’ side.


Change is also required on the fan front. Yes, it’s a dismal record. Yes, we are a country of 1.2 billion and should produce more champions than we do. Yes, our coaching standards need to improve. Yes, we need more infrastructure at the grass-root level. Yes, the administration and administrators have to be much better.

But amid all this, where is the fault of athletes who are giving it their all for the nation at the Games. Had it not been for these 118 men and women in Rio, India wouldn’t have even participated. Instead of supporting them in their effort, whether they win or lose, their countrymen back home choose to ridicule them on public platform.

How right is this? What the athletes would be thinking when they read those harsh comments while they expect the support their country promised? Will that in any way help them lift their performance?

Nobody disagrees that we should be winning more medals consistently and that the athletes need to deliver after getting everything they needed to train for this day, but ridiculing them is not the way to go forward and fix our problems.