India in London
The next few weeks will see cricket take a back seat as India sends its largest contingent ever for the Olympic Games in a quest to reap more medals and records than in previous editions. With 81 sportspersons set to compete in 13 sporting events, here are some of the medal hopefuls and promising stars to look out for…
Abhinav Bindra (Shooting): Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee Bindra has been the golden boy of Indian sports ever since he became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games’ in the 10 m Air Rifle event. So all eyes are on him to bring back a gold this time too.
Gagan Narang (Shooting): Fellow Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee Gagan Narang is the first Indian to qualify for the London Olympics. One of his biggest achievements has been bagging four gold medals at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, and scoring a perfect 600 in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle, which is a record.
MC Mary Kom (Boxing): This Manipuri boxer is one of the best chances for India to get some gold in its medal tally. The only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six World Championships, more than three Asian titles and 11 National titles, Padma Shri awardee Mary Kom will be a force to reckon with this year.
Sushil Kumar (Wrestling): He triumphed over other athletes in the Indian contingent to be named this year’s flag bearer at the Olympics. Credit for which would go to his achievements — bronze in 2008 Beijing Olympics, gold at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow, gold at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, besides being four-time Commonwealth champion.
Deepika Kumari (Archery): This 18-year-old world champion overcame her modest background and parental resistance to win the 11th Youth World Archery Championship in Ogden, U.S., at the age of 15. She won her first World Cup individual recurve gold medal in Antalya, Turkey, in May to become world No. 1. Also a gold medallist at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, Deepika is the front runner in India’s gold quest.
Saina Nehwal (Badminton): The world number 5-ranked shuttler has over 6,70,000 likes on her Facebook page, serving to prove her popularity in India. At 22, Saina has a number of achievements in her kitty — first Indian woman to reach the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics (Beijing 2008), semi-finals of All England Badminton Championship (2010), first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships (Pune 2008) and first Indian to win a Super Series tournament after triumphing at the Indonesia Open in Jakarta in June 2009.
Her current form is such that the alarmed Chinese were forced to make changes in their contingent.
Leander Paes- Sania Mirza (Tennis – Mixed Doubles): Despite some promising names in the team, the favourites are Leander Paes - Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles’ category. The pair has won the gold at the 2006 Doha Asian Games and made it to the quarter finals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Vijender Singh (Boxing): This Beijing Olympic bronze medallist also won the country’s first medal (a bronze) at the World Championships in 2009. A bronze in the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championship made this 25-year-old Padma Shri awardee the world No. 1 middleweight boxer that year.
Other names to look out for:
India’s lone judo practitioner Garima Chaudhary
The 2010 Commonwealth Games women’s doubles winners Jwala Gutta - Ashwini Ponappa
National record holder in 800 metre race and P.T. Usha’s protégé Tintu Luka
Shiva Thapa, youngest ever Indian boxer to qualify for the London Olympics.
The only swimmer in the Indian Olympic contingent Gagan AP Ulalmath (1500m freestyle)
The first Indian woman wrestler to compete at the Olympics — Geeta Phogat
The seven-member tennis team also featuring Somdev Devvarman (Men’s singles), Mahesh Bhupathi - Rohan Bopanna(Men’s doubles), Leander Paes - Vishnu Vardhan (Men’s doubles) and Rushmi Chakravarthi - Sania Mirza (Women’s doubles)