With barely two months to go for the Rio Olympics, expectations are building up in India too after the country’s athletes won six individual medals at the 2012 London Games, doubling the number of podium places achieved in Beijing four years earlier. The efforts in Beijing and in London have raised the profile of Olympic sports in cricket-focused India that had managed one minor medal each in the three Olympics before Beijing.
While top Indian athletes make long-term training plans and many work under world class coaches, the government has chalked out plans to pump in money for their training. However, the disquiet that used to accompany build-ups in the past is still very much there, raising questions over a professional approach by the authorities and federations.
The controversy over twice Olympic medal-winning wrestler Sushil Kumar not getting his demand for trials against Narsingh Yadav to decide who should take the spot in the 74-kg freestyle category is raging. It has reached the Delhi High Court, which is expected to decide the case in the next few days. While Narsingh won the qualifying spot for the country with a world championships bronze last year, Sushil’s credentials are redoubtable.
The federation has backed Narsingh in the court, arguing that Sushil had fought shy of competing since moving up from his original weight division of 66 kg but was seeking trials at such a late stage. The court has told the federation that both wrestlers were legitimate contenders and should not be used as pawns by it. The wrestling body could have tackled the issue earlier instead of allowing it to snowball into a blazing row.
Woman discus thrower, Seema Antil-Punia, too, vented her ire on the government for not promptly releasing funds for training after she qualified for Rio. The 32-year-old, who won the 2014 Asian Games title and silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games the same year, told HT that the sports ministry and Sports Authority of India had approved Rs 75 lakh under its Target Olympics Podium Scheme following a presentation on her Rio training plans last year, but the ministry took nearly eight months to release the funds.
Indian hopes of a double-digit medal haul will be tough to achieve as it is in Brazil. The least the authorities and sports officials can do is provide a smooth passage to the competition.