There were few bright spots in the opening weekend of the Rio Olympics for the largest-ever Indian contingent. Besides the honour of carrying the tricolour, that went to Abhinav Bindra, the only sportsperson to win India a gold outside of hockey, there was little comfort for followers of India’s Olympics fortunes as the most fancied competitors fell by the wayside. The difficulties in not being able to match their own high standards is a clear indicator of diffidence.
There is mental attitude to preparation that must allow athletes to tune themselves in to hit the Games full stride. The nature of the quadrennial Games is such that it gives no opportunity to slow starters, of which India has too many. It may seem pointless to prepare four years only to crash out, being unable to give one’s best straightaway. When a table tennis player like Sharath Kamal, possibly the best India has ever produced, is sent packing in the opening game suggests a peculiar deficiency: lack of confidence.
Veteran Leander Paes, meanwhile, may have made it worse for himself by not landing with the national team in Rio. All the fuss over Games pairing has come to naught, with him and Rohan Bopanna eliminated at the start. The shooters don’t appear to have settled in at Rio in time to make an impact. Sport can be very cruel at times, even on the best of sportspeople. The fact that it’s most cruel to India’s Olympic aspirants is a long story.