Indian sport: Olympic high to suspension low

New Delhi:  Indian sport saw both its highs and its lows in 2012. If the best-ever medal haul from the Olympics in London was its high point, by the year-end its reputation was in the mud as the national Olympic committee was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for compromising its autonomy by kowtowing the government line.

The high spot was India’s six medals at the July-August London Olympics, even if it did not win gold as it did in Beijing four years ago. This was made up of two silver and four bronze medals.

Shooters continued their trend of picking up medals they began at Athens in 2004 and this time it was Vijay Kumar’s silver in the 25m rapid fire pistol and the bronze of Gagan Narang in 10m air rifle.

Wrestling also showed up, Sushil Kumar creating history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back Olympic medals in individual events by winning the silver in 66kg freestyle to add to his Beijing bronze. His long-time friend Yogeshwar Dutt grabbed the bronze in the 60kg.

While the men flattered to deceive in the ring, M.C. Mary Kom punched above her weight to secure a bronze in the 51kg class as women’s boxing made its Olympic debut.

Badminton star Saina Nehwal got India’s sixth medal in rather fortuitous circumstances when her Chinese opponent Wang Xin retired mid-way through the contest owing to a knee injury. Saina also won two Super Series Premier titles in Indonesia and Denmark to cap off a memorable year for the 22-year-old.

In the Paralympics, Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda won a silver medal in the men’s high jump.

The Olympic success gave hopes of India emerging as a sporting nation sooner than later, but the athletes’ effort was nullified by the shenanigans of sports administrators.

The Indian Olympic Association was suspended by the IOC for not abiding by the Olympic Charter under Government pressure while conducting its election. Worse, the sports ministry de-recognised the archery association and the boxing federation for manipulating their election processes.

Veteran tennis player Leander Paes may not have won a second Olympic medal in London after winning the the singles bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games, but the 39-year-old became the first Indian to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the Australian Open with Czech partner Radek Stepanek. They beat the Bryan brothers in the final.

Organisationally, India successfully hosted the second Formula One Indian Grand Prix with the F1 fraternity praising the improved facilities at the Jaypee Group- owned Buddh International Circuit (BIC). Fans’ attendance came down to 65,000 from the 95,000 in the inaugural year, but it was enough to gauge that the exhilarating sport was here to stay.

India continued to rule the kabaddi arena, winning the World Cup for the third time, beating Pakistan in the final.

Squash player Dipika Pallikal, 21, became the first Indian to break into the top-10 of the World’s women’s rankings.

On the debit side, India’s hockey continues to be in a mess. It is in a rebuilding state after another horrendous performance returning to the Olympics for the first time in eight years. They finished right at the bottom of the table to record a new low. But there were signs of recovery when they finished fourth at the Champions Trophy in Melbourne.

The other popular sport, football, is also struggling to make a mark, at least in the region. Now the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has started rebuilding from scratch, concentrating at the junior levels. The results have been encouraging.

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