Wrestler Sakshi Malik, who won India’s first medal at the Rio Olympics, was announced on Sunday as the country’s flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.
The announcement came after India’s last medal hope Yogeshwar Dutt lost 0-3 to Ganzorig Mandakhnaran in the qualifying of the 65kg freestyle wrestling event.
Sakshi, who had become the first woman wrestler in India to win an Olympic medal with her bronze in the 58kg freestyle, became the obvious choice as India’s only other medallist PV Sindhu, who bagged a silver in women’s singles badminton, left for Hyderabad on Saturday.
“Sakshi and Sindhu have been the medallists for us and both displayed immense courage and determination during their competitions,” said chef de mission Rakesh Gupta.
N Ramachandran, president of the Indian Olympic Association, came to the Olympic Village and wished the two medallists and their coaches.
Defying all odds and showing killer instincts, Sindhu, Sakshi and gymnast Dipa Karmakar became the unlikely heroes and saved the country’s pride from returning empty-handed for the first time since Barcelona 1992.
The trio notched a few firsts for India: Sindhu, at 21, became the youngest to win an Olympic medal, a silver which was never achieved in badminton; and Sakshi’s bronze was also a first for women’s wrestling.
Dipa went on to miss a bronze by 0.15 points but her clean finish in the high-risk Produnova vault won the hearts of a nation.
Lalita Babar became the second Indian woman to qualify for the final of a track vent at the Olympics in 32 years (PT Usha being the previous one in Los Angeles 1984) and finished 10th in the 3000m steeplechase.
An 18-year-old golfer Aditi Ashok slipped away from being in top-10 at the end of second round to finish 41st with an overall score of seven-over 291.
There were some ugly moments at the Games for India.
Wrestler Narsingh Yadav was slapped with a four-year ban by the Court of Arbitration of Sports which overturned the clean chit given by the National Anti-Doping Agency. The dope shame had returned to haunt India again, even as Yadav claimed innocence. The grappler cried conspiracy but was evicted from the Games Village.
In another controversy, sports minister Viay Goel’s entourage was called “rude” by the Organising Committee, which threatened to cancel his accreditation for trying to bring non-accredited people at the accredited areas of venues.
Indian athletics contingent’s middle and long distance coach Nikolai Snesarev was “detained” at a local police station for half a day and later released by the police after a lady doctor at the Games Village made a complaint of misbehaviour.
On field-show too was hardly inspiring.
Competing in 15 disciplines with their biggest-ever contingent numbering 118, India hoped to go past their best ever tally of six medals in London 2012.
But the country stumbled on a tricky road in Rio when shooters fired a blank for the first time since Athens 2004, and boxers lacked punch, also a first in eight years.
The Games will close a circle with Olympic flame being extinguished and apart from the melancholy the organisers have promised to show the best of Brazil.
According to Rio 2016 communications director Mario Andrara, 41,233 tickets were sold for the closing ceremony at the Maracana.
However, it was still unclear whether Brazilian legend Pele who had pulled out of the Opening Ceremony would attend the function.
“If he wants to be there, he will be our guest, but we haven’t got in touch with him or he hasn’t got in touch with us since the Opening but obviously if we get a chance to have him it will be our pleasure,” Andara said.