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Home away from home for Indians

india Updated: Nov 12, 2010 13:47 IST
Ajai Masand

The spectacular flag-hoisting ceremony --- as much an integral part of the Asian Games as the competition itself --- is a never-to-be-missed experience. Sportspersons in all their finery arrive for the function, mingle with athletes and officials from other countries and pose for posterity.

With a local band playing an endearing tune and the Pearl River flowing lazily a few yards away, it was an experience every Indian athlete present at the function on Thursday would cherish.

Perched just outside the Athletes' Village, this small 'oasis' would have felt like a home away from home for the Indian contingent, which is here to make a big splash after its mind-boggling success at the Commonwealth Games.

There was the affable Suranjoy Singh (Chhota Tyson for everyone), dressed in the ceremonial navy blue jacket, satiating the curiosity of every mediaperson and still managing a smile, five-time boxing world champion, MC Marykom --- dressed in a saree only for the second time in her life --- and foreign hockey coach, Jose Brasa, looking more Indian than Spanish. There were a hundred more smiling Indian faces complimenting each other.

Those who missed the occasion --- that included the shooting and basketball contingent - - would have definitely missed an opportunity of a lifetime.

For Brasa, the thing uppermost on the mind even in these serene surroundings was how to get India's campaign on track after the 8-0 drubbing at the hands of champions Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

"I am not thinking of anything except a first place here. That will assure us a place in the 2012 Olympic Games. For me and the team, it is even more important than gold. Even my contract is not all that important...we have to do really well," said the Spaniard.

Brasa and coach in-charge, Harendra Singh, know best, for the team had earned the

wrath of the nation by finishing outside the medals bracket for the first time at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. Those memories would still be fresh in Harendra's mind, for he was the assistant to coach V Baskaran then.

"We played well in the final (against Australia in the CWG), but fumbled in defence and counter-attacks. Most of the Australian goals came at the end of the first and second sessions," mumbled Brasa. "But we are finding solutions," he added quickly.

The most decorated Indian boxer, MC Marykom, probably would not be wasting her energy fixing problems. She would be eyeing the gold to add to her burgeoning titles.

"This is one title which is missing from my cupboard. With women's boxing making its debut at the Games, I'm hopeful of a gold in the 51kg category.

"The only problem is I am competing in this weight category for the first time. Could be slightly tough," she added.

For Suranjoy, the pint-sized boxer who has the 2010 Commonwealth and 2009 Asian Championship (China) gold to his credit, the inspiration is Mike Tyson.

"I have cassettes of his bouts, which I watch regularly. I like the way he moves in and counter-punches."

A certain Abhinav Bindra or a Gagan Narang would have added glitter to the ceremony by sharing their thoughts on the eve of the opening ceremony. Those thoughts are perhaps being channelised for the tough days ahead.

Let the Games begin.