London Olympics: India’s medal hopeful

Compiled by Suyash Srivastava

Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar were the heroes of 2008 Bejing Olympics. Four years down the line, while all of us would expect the trio for an encore, there are some other renowned athletes who would like to forget the past and make the country proud in the upcoming London Olympics.

Abhinav Bindra

All eyes would be once again on Abhinav Bindra who created history by winning the only individual gold medal for India at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The ace shooter received the Arjuna Award at the age of 17 and is also the youngest recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award – the highest sporting honor in the country. Abhinav has also been decorated with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honor in 2009 after his historic Gold Medal win at the Beijing Olympics.

The World and Olympic champion, Bindra who sets high standards for himself shall settle for nothing less than a gold medal.

Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi

Gagan Narang won Gold in the men`s 10 metre air rifle event with a world record score in 2008 ISSF World Cup Final. Gagan shot a perfect 600 in the qualification round and scored 103.5 in the final round making total score of 703.5 to gain the world record. Narang broke Austria`s Farnik Thomas`s record, set in the 2006 World Cup final in Granada, Spain.

Narang scored 703.5 -- a perfect 600 in the qualifying and 103.5 in the final -- to break Austria`s Farnik Thomas`s record, set in the 2006 World Cup final in Granada, Spain. While expectations would be high from Abhinav Bindra, one should not be surprised if Gagan Narang returns back with a medal this time. Just like Narang, another ace shooter Ronjan Singh Sodhi who became the first Indian to defend a World Cup title in 2011 can also surprise the opponents as well as the fans at the upcoming games.

Saina Nehwal

“The Olympics is always in my mind,” is what she had told to a leading newspaper when asked if she is aware of the expectations the nation has from her.

She is 22-year-old and very emotional. But that hardly affects the game of ace Indian Shuttler Sania Nehwal. Even at such a young age, she has brought several laurels for the country and she is one of those sportspersons who can for sure make the country proud at the London Olympics.

She is a brown belt in Karate and her determination to deliver her 100% every time she enters the court, is something that differentiates Saina Nehwal from others. In order to be physically stronger, she turned a non-vegetarian in 2006. It was when her coach and mentor Gopichand told her that she needs to be stronger to meet her Chinese opponents. Of late she has lost 5 kg weight to be physically fit in order to compete with her Chinese opponents.
She had a standout year in 2010 when she won three Super Series titles and the Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi, also reaching a career-best world ranking of two. The world no 5 recently suffered defeat at the hands of Korean Youn Jou Bae in the second round of India open. But the Indian media and the fans have a poor memory. If she returns with a medal from the London Olympics, nothing else should matter.

Mary Kom

Mother of two and Five-times world amateur boxing champion M.C. Mary Kom took boxing as a challenge and she didn’t even inform her parents about it. They came to know about her daughter’s career only when one of her photographs was published in a newspaper after she won a title. In spite of having won the World Cup five times, Mary Kom still lacks the kind of support a champ of her calibre deserves.

The 29-year-old boxer won her world amateur titles at 46 and 48kg but the lightest of the three weight categories in London will be 51kg. She hasn’t yet qualified for the Olympic games but the Muhammad Ali fan will lead the country’s 10-strong challenge at the World Championships in Qinhuangdao, China — women boxing’s first and only qualifying event before its historic debut at the London Games.

The fans would hope that Mary not only qualifies for the prestigious games but also knocks her opponents to win a medal!

Sushil Kumar

Wrestling has been an ancient sport mostly practiced in the villages of India. Sushil Kumar, the champion wrestler rose from a dusty village in West Delhi to win a bronze for his country in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His father Diwan Singh himself wanted to become a wrestler, but his poor financial background didn’t allow him to live his dreams. But he made sure that his son doesn’t have to compromise and even though Sushil Kumar had promised a gold to his father, he came back home with a bronze, and he was awarded with a barrage of cash rewards.

Indian fans would have huge expectations from the 28-year-old wrestler who won a bronze medal in the Men`s 66kg Freestyle Wrestling event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he outclassed Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan in the repechage round.

Soon after he failed to defend his World Championship title last year, Sushil Kumar had changed his wrestling style which he tested at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Tournament in Colorado Springs, where he won the gold medal. But he struggled in the first Olympic qualifier at Astana last month. He was back in sublime form at the World Qualifier in China last week where he defeated Georgian Otar Tushishvilli, also a Beijing Games bronze medallist, in the final to book his ticket to London. He is no more an unsung hero and thus the country would have huge hopes from him and would expect an encore.

Vijender Singh and Shiv Thapa

Just like Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh’s story is no different. His father was a bus driver and such were the resources, that he could not afford two bicycles for his sons, as they shared one, not with much happiness. Things have changed for the 27-year-old boxer after he became the first Indian boxer to win a medal in Olympics history after beating Ecuador`s Carlos Gongora in the quarter-final. In a country that is starved of Olympic medals, the bronze came as a huge relief and with it came awards and endorsement for the boxer hailing from Bhiwani, India’s boxing hub.

Vijender Singh has been miffed with the way sports barring cricket, are treated in India. And when he fights with the opponents in the London Olympics along with the other pugilists, the reason should be big enough for him to add another medal to his list.

Shiv Thapa, the 18-year-old boxer from Guwahati has already entered history books by becoming the youngest boxer ever to have qualified for Olympics. His father Padam Thapa, a karate instructor in Guwahati and his elder brother Gobind Thapa, an Assam state-level medal winning boxer are the sources of inspiration which made him take boxing as a profession. While his peers will have to meet up the high expectations of their fans, the little dynamite might just create another history at 2012 London Olympics.

Bhupati – Bopanna

Rohan Bopanna who has been playing some very good tennis over the last two years was rewarded when Mahesh Bhupathi picked him over Leander Paes as his doubles partner for the London games. The final decision is yet to be taken by the All India Tennis Assosication, and if it accepts to Bhupathi’s demand, they would also have high expectations from the two of them to bring a medal this time.