Here is talking about our very own home-grown heroes, who will be the torch-bearers for India in the forthhcoming London Olympics.
Ranked fifth in the world, Hyderabad girl Nehwal is a strong contender for a medal in badminton, especially after a string of superb performances in the months leading up to the London Games, in which she beat all her higher-ranked Chinese adversaries. She is swift on the court, with a vast repertoire of strokes and very good stamina to match the best. But at this level, it is self-belief that works most.
MC Mary Kom
She is arguably the most fascinating sportsperson from India and the finest woman boxer in the world. She has five golds and a silver in World Championship tournaments- two of the golds coming after taking time off to start a family! In London, she is fighting in a higher weight category (51 kg) than her usual 48 kg, which could be a handicap- or an incentive!
India’s presence in both men’s and women’s categories in this discipline is strong, considering their recent performances. Trained now by former great Limba Ram, they have shown excellent form in the run-up to the Games. The women (Deepika Kumari, Chekrovolu Swuro and Laishram Bombayla Devi) won the silver at the World Championship last year and have beaten most of their serious opponents since. The men (Jayanta Talukdar, Tarandeep Rai and Rahul Banerjee) won the gold in the 2012 World Cup and a silver this year.
The hockey team
It is far-fetched to say that the hockey team can win a medal since it barely managed to qualify. But hockey remains the most emotional sport for India and therefore there is always hope. Under new coach Michael Nobbes, players Bharat Chettri, Sandeep Singh et al have shown not just progress in skills but also morale and ambition. Most aficionados believe that if the Indian team finishes in the top six, it will have done well. But this is the Olympics where individuals and teams can exceed themselves, so who knows!
Leander Paes and Sania Mirza
This pairing has the best medal prospects of all the tennis players representing India at the Olympics. They individually have very good records in doubles and have played together before. Their biggest test will be to put all the acrimony in the run-up to the Games behind them. Of the others, Paes-Vishnu Vardhan and Mirza-Rushmi Chakravarthi have not had much time together, Mahesh Bhupathi-Rohan Bopanna have had a so-so year and Somdev Devvarman is returning from a long injury timeout.
India’s flag-bearer at the London Games is also the Beijing bronze medallist and a gold medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. While some questions have been raised about his preparation for the Games — and a shoulder injury — Kumar will have to dig deep to make good on the promise that he showed four years ago. He has already proved that he has both the determination and the will to come out on top.
Although Abhinav Bindra won gold in Beijing in the 10m air rifle, Narang has had better form going into the Olympics and therefore, is a better medal prospect. Narang equalled the world record in the qualification round, shooting a perfect 600. He won four golds at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and Delhi in 2010. Since he failed to qualify for Beijing, he has a lot to prove in London. He was also the first Indian to qualify for the Olympics this year.