London: India returned with its best-ever Olympics medal tally from the London Games. If there is anything missing, it is a gold and that has been somewhat made up by two silver medals out of a total of six.
The performance of the Indians is indeed creditable as the expectations were also realistic, though some might argue that Indian men should have got medals from the boxing ring and the women from the archery arena.
While shooting and wrestling led the charge with two medals each (one silver and one bronze in each of the disciplines), two other finishes on the podium were from badminton and women’s boxing. India finished 55th on the medals table, 10 rungs higher than their count at Beijing.
Indians left London, having doubled the three-medal tally from Beijing four years ago. However, there was gold in Beijing, the first by an individual – Abhinav Bindra, who won it in the men’s 10m air rifle.
Curiously, it was in the same event that India began its medal account here with 29-year-old Gagan Narang winning the bronze, aggregating 701.1 (598 qualifying, 103.1 final) at the Royal Artillery Barracks range.
After three unproductive days, luck again smiled on India as army shooter Vijay Kumar scooped up silver in the men’s 25-metre rapid fire pistol.
Kumar ensured a finish on the second highest podium scoring 30 in the final. He shot a perfect five in the first series to take joint lead and followed up with series of 4, 4, 3, 4, 4 and 4 and 2 to grab the silver.
Shooting has lately emerged as the most productive sport for India at the Olympics. India has so far shot one gold, two silvers and a bronze from the ranges since the 2004 Athens Games.
In contrast, hockey still holds the record for the highest number of medals – 11 (eight gold, one silver and two bronze), but the point is the last medal success from the discipline came way back in 1980, a gold.
The Indians also achieved spectacular success on the mat at the Excel arena, with Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt getting a silver and bronze respectively.
Sushil lost the men’s 66 kg freestyle final to Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu 1-3 and settled for silver, becoming the first Indian to win individual medals in back-to-back Olympics.
In the 60kg class, Yogeshwar clinched the bronze after winning the repechage round.
The Haryana grappler churned out a great performance against North Korean Jong Myong Ri to win the bronze medal play-off 3-1.
Yogeshwar, who was in his third Olympics, also became the third Indian wrestler after Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav and Sushil to win an Olympic medal. Jadhav had won bronze in the 1952 Helsinki Games.
On the badminton court, Saina Nehwal etched her name in India’s sporting history by winning the country’s maiden medal from the competition to become the second Indian woman to stand on the Olympic podium. Lifter Karnam Malleswari won a bronze in the 2000 Sydney Games.
Women’s boxing saw Manipur’s M.C. Mary Kom scripting history by becoming the country’s first woman pugilist to win a medal at the Olympics when she finished with a bronze in the 51 kg event.
Amid these highs, two sporting disciplines provided the lows. Despite much hope, none of the Indian archers came even remotely close to a medal, as they mostly fell at the first hurdle.
Hockey, where India were for long the reigning monarchs, saw the country’s standards having sunk to the lowest depths. Indians came up with their worst performance, securing the last position among 12 teams.
The highly rated male boxers also disappointed. Two of them – Laishram Devendro Singh in 49kg and Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Vijender Singh in 75kg – made it to the last eight, but that was the end of the road for them.
In track and field, women’s discus thrower Krishna Poonia and her male counterpart Vikas Gowda made it to the finals, while the Indian participants rewrote the national records in 50km and 20km walks.
The glamorous tennis stars also gave heartbreaking performances. Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, who had forced the tennis authorities to pair them up in men’s doubles, lost to a much lower ranked duo in the second round.
Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan also crashed out at the same stage, but not before a lion-hearted fight against Michael Llodra/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France).
There was much hope on the mixed doubles pair of Paes and Saina Mirza, but they crashed out in the quarterfinals.
Indian participants joined the action in three other disciplines – rowing, judo and weightlifting – but failed to make any impact.