Tokyo 2020: Indian athletes return with extraordinary results
- Indian athletes produced a show to remember in the 16 days of Tokyo Olympics, winning the country a total of seven medals.
The typhoon off Tokyo Bay that was gathering pace since Saturday morning, when Aditi Ashok got within a single shot of winning what would have been the most unpredictable medal for India at the Olympics, finally blew in a couple of hours after Neeraj Chopra pierced the night sky with his spear at the Olympic stadium.
Chopra’s gold, India’s first ever in track & field, brought to a close the country’s most successful outing at the Games in history. Then, as if on cue, began a downpour, washing away the heat and humidity that marked the 16 days of an extraordinary edition of the Olympics that ended on Sunday.
Extraordinary - for Mirabai Chanu, winning a silver on Day 1 of the competitions, something India has never done before; for PV Sindhu, becoming only the second person from India to win two individual Olympic medals; for Ravi Dahiya, winning a silver in wrestling, the only sport in which India has won a medal in each edition since 2008; for the Indian men’s hockey team, once invincible at the Olympics, winning their first medal in 41 years and the women’s hockey team making a breath taking run that almost ended in a medal; and for Chopra, making the penultimate evening of the Games truly memorable for Indian sport, triumphant and cathartic.
With a world junior record in 2016 and now an Olympic champion at 23, Chopra is truly on his way to becoming India’s first global athletics icon - ahead even of the triumvirate of Milkha Singh, PT Usha and Anju Bobby George.
Journalists from around the world wanted to know more about Chopra.
“What kind of impact can it have on Indian sport, a country of a billion people?” Pekka Holopainen, a journalist from Finland, a country that produces some of the world’s top throwers, was curious to know.
By the time Chopra reached the Games Village on Saturday, dawn was about to break.
Chopra slept with the gold close to his pillow.
A few hours later, still sleepy, Chopra joined the few Indian athletes and coaches still left in the Village. Women’s hockey captain Rani Rampal, men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh and bronze-medal winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain were among those present when Chopra cut a golden cake.
Here, in one frame, was the story of India’s Olympics.
Manpreet leading the men’s hockey team, through some of the most nail-biting hockey imaginable, lifting themselves after a 7-1 defeat to Australia to claw their way into the semis and then outclassing Germany in the bronze medal playoff. Rampal, whose team had been written off before they even began the campaign, and who lost their first three games to stay true to that assessment, before mounting a comeback for the ages that took them to the semi-finals before losing 4-3 in the bronze medal match against Rio champions Great Britain.
Borgohain, who became only the third boxer to win a medal for India at the Olympics.
Each of them is hoping that their medals will come to mean more than just a sporting victory. They wish it will bring change - renew a once-great culture of hockey, strengthen the fledgling interest in boxing, or build a new platform for athletics.
“To win a hockey medal after 41 years and for both teams to do well will go a long way to revive the sport in the country,” said Manpreet. “The young hockey players will believe that they can come to the Olympics and win medals.”
“I have a feeling,” said Chopra, “that the coming years for Indian sport will be even better.”