India went into the Rio 2016 Olympics on the back of the strongest and biggest contingent it has ever had. Just that give everyone reason to rejoice that we’re sending nearly 40 members more than what we did at London Olympics four years back. For the medal hungry, it offered chances of bettering the six medals mark – the highest ever – set in London. Some said India would return with medals in double digits, some expected great showing in the shooting range while some were less positive as they predicted a much lower number.
The nearly 120-member contingent walked with with cheery smiles and waved at the parade of nations during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some, though, like the archers, tennis players and hockey team members opted to stay away with a packed first day ahead of them.
But as we enter day 6 of the Rio Olympics, India don’t have a medal to show so far. No gold, silver or bronze. In London, the wait had been for three days before Gagan Narang won a bronze in the 10m Air Rifle event. But in Rio, the wait has been longer and the performance disappointing. The closest India have come to a medal has been through the country’s only individual gold medallist Abhinav Bindra who lost in the bronze medal play-off to lose by a margin of 0.5. Elsewhere, it has been bleak including from Jitu Rai who many expected to deliver.
Day 1 – Dattu Bhokanal and men’s hockey team the bright spots
Rower Bhokanal finished third in his heats to move forward to the quarterfinals in the men’s single sculls event while the men’s hockey team endured late pressure to beat debutants Ireland 3-2. Away from it, it proved to be a disappointing day for India. Both the men’s and women’s doubles pairing Rohan Bopanna-Leander Paes and Sania Mirza-Prarthana Thombare respectively lost in the first round, leaving just the mixed competition to hope from.
At the shooting range, Apurvi Chandela, Ayonika Paul failed to qualify for the Final. Jitu Rai did manage to qualify but crashed out first to finish eighth. Gurpreet Singh, on the other hand, didn’t qualify.
The paddlers offered little to none with Mouma Das, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh and all losing easily before Manika Batra offered little resistance but wasn’t enough to win.
In weightlifting, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu lifted 82kg in the snatch event but could not complete any of her lifts in the clean and jerk competition.
Day 2 – Dipa Karmakar makes history
The biggest story for India this Olympics has been Dipa Karmakar. She had earlier become the first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in gymnastics and then on day 2, she became the first Indian to qualify for the Final. In her preferred apparatus of vault, the Tripura girl finished eighth to move forward.
Elsewhere, the women’s hockey team got their campaign underway and drew 2-2 after being 2-0 down. India did have chances to win at the end but couldn’t convert their chances.
In shooting, Heena Sidhu failed to make the cut in the 10m Air Pistol qualifiers to bow out early. It was also a disappointing day for trap shooters Manavjit Singh Sandhu and Kynan Chenai who had a poor start on the first day of the qualifiers.
Women’s archery team won their elimination round against Colombia but lost in the next round to Russia.
Day 3 – Abhinav Bindra comes close to medal, heartbreak in hockey
Bindra qualified for the 10m Air Rifle event by a whisker and then finished fourth in the Final after both he and his competition were locked on equal points. And as the Indian shot 0.5 poorer, he waved goodbye and took his seat. And that will be that for Bindra and the Olympics. Other experienced shooter Gagan Narang failed to make the cut. Continuing their second day of qualifiers, Sandhu and Chenai went out of contention by finishing outside the top-8.
The heartbreak happened on the hockey pitch where the Indian men’s team lost to Germany with three seconds to spare. And the women were humbled 3-0 by Great Britain in the wee hours.
India’s campaign in the swimming pool started and ended early with both Shivani Kataria and Sajan Prakash failing to advance from the heats.
Disappointment was also visible in archery where Laxmirani Majhi lost easily in the first round of the individual event.
Day 4 – Boxing gain, reversal of fortunes in hockey
Vikas Krishan gave India a winning start in boxing with a winning start against Charles Conwell of the USA. The hockey team turned things around to win against a much fancied Argentina by 2-1 to get things back in order after the disappointment of Germany game.
In archery, Atanu Das won both his first and second rounds to stay alive in the men’s individual archery competition.
But it was a disappointing day elsewhere with Bhokanal failing to qualify for the semi-final C/D and bow out of medal contention. Heena Sidhu couldn’t make most of her second shot too by bowing out in the qualifiers of 25m Pistol event.
Day 5 – Jitu Rai suffers shock exit
The poor show in shooting continued but this time it came as a shocker for everyone concerned. Jitu Rai failed to make the Final of the 50m Pistol – his pet event. With the Indian finishing 12th, his hopes were dashed. As were that of Prakash Nanjappa who was making his debut and finished further down the pile.
Then in the evening, India suffered a trio of poor results with Judoka Avtar Singh, weightlifter Sathish Sivalingam and the women’s hockey team all losing. The women being crushed 1-6 by Australia made the mood bleak all around.
Late in the night, archers Bombayla and Deepika kept the Indian flag flying in the individual event with wins. Then boxer Manoj Kumar also beat 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist to keep India going in the ring.