Indian track and field athletes failed to make a mark with none of them coming up with anything extraordinary even as sprint “living legend” Usain Bolt cast his spell in the British capital in the blue-riband event of the Olympic Games that drew to a close here today.
The country sent the second largest track and field contingent of 14 athletes to London in the backdrop of the doping scandal that rocked Indian athletics with the hope that they would punch above their weight and redeem the reputation of the sport,which lay in tatters after the dope shame.
Jamaican Bolt set the Olympic Stadium on fire with three golds in 100m,200m and 4X100m relay,the same medals he won in Beijing four years ago,catapulting himself as the “greatest athlete ever” and a “living legend” in his own words.
But it was the same old story for India with the country finishing without a medal as has been the case in the past and leaving the biggest sporting arena without making its presence felt in athletics,one of the major attractions in these multi-discipline extravaganzas.
It was another disappointing show by the country after its unprecedented success at the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2010. The dismal performance in London showed that India can only perform at the Commonwealth and Asian Games levels.
The government also spent the highest ever amount of money for the training of athletes abroad under renowned coaches in United States and Europe.
Discus throwers Vikas Gowda and Krishna Poonia were expected to push themselves beyond their personal best levels for top-bracket finish,though they were never serious medal contenders.
The duo promised a lot after having trained under well-known coaches with funding from the sports ministry but failed to leave a mark after entering the finals.
If anything commendable was done by the Indians in the athletics,it was by K T Irfan in the 20km race walk as he finished 10th out of 56 participants with a national record time.
The unheralded Irfan clocked 1:20:21,bettering the old national record of 1::20.35 set by Gurmeet Singh. He also improved upon his earlier personal best of 1::22:09,which he recorded in the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Russia in May.
Gurmeet finished 33rd with a timing of 1::23:34,while the third Indian in the fray,Baljinder Singh was 43rd in 1::25:39.
Basant Bahadur Rana also set a national record in 50km race walk but had to settle for the 36th place finish. He clocked 3 hours,56 minutes and 48 seconds,an improvement upon his personal best and season best timing of 4:02:13,which was also the old national record.
Discus throw was the event in which the Indians had a chance of giving a fight to the best in the world,but Poonia and Gowda could only qualify for the final round,becoming only the sixth and seventh to do so in India’s Olympics track and field history.
Poonia could only hurl the discus to a distance of 63.62m,well below her personal best of 64.76m,also a national record. She was subdued throughout the competition.
Gowda was tipped to go the distance and give a tough fight to top positions,if not a podium finish.
He began on a promising note with a near 65m mark a 64.79m throw — but eventually fizzled out without any semblance of fight to end at eighth. He could not even reach his qualification throw of 65.20m,not to talk of his personal best of 66.28m,which he recorded in the run-up to the Olympics.
The likes of shot putter Om Prakash Karhana,high jumperSahana Kumari,discus thrower Seema Antil,triple jumper Mayookha Johny and Sudha Singh (3000m steeple chase) turned out flop shows while 800m runner Tintu Luka once again did nothing worthwhile as she crashed out in the semifinals.
Om Prakash,who trained for two years at Szombathely in Hungary in the build-up to the Olympics,failed to advance to the finals after finishing 19th in the qualification round.
He threw the 7.26kg iron ball to a distance 19.86m,much below his personal best and national record 20.69m,which he recorded in May at his training base.
It was the same story for Mayookha,who also failed to advance to the finals after finishing 22nd in the qualification round. She had a best effort of 13.77m,well below her personal best of 14.11m,which she recorded in the Asian Championships in Japan last year.
Triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary,who,along with Mayookha and marathon runner Ram Singh Yadav,was asked by the Athletics Federation of India to prove fitness before boarding the flight to London,came up with the worst show of all with three no marks against his name.
He joined a list of Indian athletes who had come up with three no marks against their names in past Olympics,including long Anju Booby George (in 2008 Beijing Olympics) and triple jumper Mohinder Singh Gill (in 1972 Munich Olympics).
Luka qualified for the semifinals after finishing third in one of the heats but failed to make it to the final round.
The 23-year-old Indian,coached by legendary P T Usha,clocked 1:59.69secs in the semifinals,her season’s best but below her personal best timing of 1:59.17s,to finish third in heat number two but that was hardly enough to give her a berth in the finals.
The last Indian competitor,marathon Yadav failed to replicate the feat through which he qualified for the Olympic Games as he finished a distant 78th from 105 starters today.