The Great Indian Dream

For years, putting up a good show at the biggest sporting event in the world has been a dream for my country. Yes, the Olympics. India, a country with more than a billion people, has always dreamed in technicolor when it came to the Olympics.

This great dream started in 1928 when the indomitable Indian hockey team won its first Gold medal at the Olympics. What followed was a 6 gold medals in a row, the Indian team was undefeated until 1956! In doing so, the Indian team became the nation to win the most Golds for Hockey at the Olympics. A feat unparalleled. No team has ever come close to the dream that was the Indian Hockey team of the yesteryears. Dhyan Chand and his boys reserved a place for themselves on the golden pages of the sport.

Another phenomenal achievement happened during the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Abhinav Bindra won the Gold for the 10m Air Rifle shooting event, giving India its first individual Gold at the Olympics. What a moment that was! A billion dreams came true at the same time. India could now proudly boast of an individual achievement at the Olympics.

abhinav bindra

While Abhinav Bindra’s win was amazing, something heartbreaking had happened at the same Olympics. It was the first time since 1928 that the Indian hockey team had failed to qualify for the Olympics. It was a terrible, disheartening moment for people associated with the sport, who had seen India virtually destroy any and every competition that it ever had. Scarred with politics and shoddy management, the players were let down horribly.

But this year, the Hockey team is back with a bang. After an amazing performance at the London Olympics qualifiers, where they stood first, and a good performance at the Azlan Shah Cup, the Indian team is going from strength. Lead by a new coach Michael Nobbs, the team has never looked better. Nobbs has blended the European style of hockey well with the crafty hockey that our players play. This year, Michael Nobbs and many many Indians expect a podium finish from the Hockey team because of the simple fact that it is possible 🙂

The Indian hockey team holds aloft their trophy at the victory podium after winning the men's field hockey match between India and France for the final position of the FIH London 2012 Olympic Hockey qualifying tournament at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on February 26, 2012.

(The Indian Hockey team after winning the London Olympic Qualifiers)

The other sport that has everyone excited is Women’s Boxing. This is the first time that this sport has been included in the Olympics lineup and what makes it even more exciting is the presence of one name on that final qualifying list, MC Mary Kom. Considered by many to be one of the finest female boxers in the world, Mary Kom is all set to win the first Olympic Gold for the 51-kg Female Boxing event.

India's boxer MC Mary Kom punches a bag during a training session at Balewadi Stadium in Pune, about 190 km (118 miles) from Mumbai, March 12, 2012. Mary Kom was the face of the campaign to get women's boxing into the Olympics and the Indian mother of two will be competing at the world championships in China in May aiming to book her spot at the London Games in the 51kg category. Picture taken March 12, 2012.

(MC Mary Kom trains for the Olympics)

The woman power at the Olympics this time is being upped seriously by the participation and qualification of Saina Nehwal, India’s top ranked female badminton player and currently ranked World No.5. After a quarterfinal defeat in her debut Olympics at Beijing last year, Saina is raring for a comeback and fulfil her dream of an Olympic medal. She faces a tough draw at the Olympics but she has trained hard and won two major titles in the last couple of months, displaying excellent form.

Saina Nehwal practices during a training session for the badminton competition of the 2012 Summer Olympics, on July 25, 2012, in London.
(Saina Nehwal practices during a training session of the London Olympics)
Apart from these three personal favorites,
there are many wonderful athletes representing India, I wish them all the best!
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Another high for Indian sports!

This seems to be a great year for Indian sports. And no, I am not talking about Cricket because our players from Hockey have proved that there are other things that can make us equally, if not more happy. I am talking about the Indian Women’s Kabaddi team. The Indian Women’s Kabaddi team won the Inaugral Women’s Kabaddi World Cup yesterday! What a news! Fantastic to the core..

 

 

India defeated Iran in the finals, 25-19 at Kankerbagh yesterday. What a great moment for the first World Cup to be held in India and our eves winning it! Well done,team! Kabaddi has been included in the Olympics only once, many years ago but there are strong voices of support to include it in the 2016 games. Let’s hope they do that, and our women go and win themselves an Olympic Gold!

 

WOOHOOO!!

WE DID IT!!!

I am so so happy and so so proud of the Men’s National Hockey tonight. Such a young team, inexperienced at that, and what a phenomenal performance! For those of you who are clueless about what I am writing,  India defeated France by 8-1 to secure a place at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games! YAY!!

Indian players and officials pose with the trophy after their win over France in the London 2012 Olympic Games men's field hockey final qualifying match in New Delhi February 26, 2012. Eight-time champions India secured their place in the men's hockey event at this year's London Olympics after routing France 8-1 in the final of qualifying tournament on Sunday.

India's Sandeep Singh, with raised hand, celebrates his fifth goal of the match against France during the 1st-2nd placed playoff match of field hockey Olympic qualifier in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.

The 30th Olympic Games, and Olympics #19 for the Indian Hockey Team who have won the Olympic gold 8 times in the past. What a feeling to be redeemed. This is the same team that failed to qualify for the Olympics in the first time of Olympic History in 2008. And they’ve achieved their dream tonight and they’ve made supporters of the national game proud!

Coming from such humble backgrounds and making it to the top with little endorsements and money, they’ve shown that passion and dedication can make everything possible. Credit must also go to our new coach Michael Nobbs, who virtually turned this team around. His strict coaching methods and good use of the players and their abilities have given this team a brand new face. This team is now raring to go and face the competition at the Olympics this July.

One more special mention for our penalty corner specialist, the master of the drag flick, Sandeep Singh. Few would believe that this is the man who was seriously hurt in a freak shooting incident 6 years ago, just days before the Indian team left for the Hockey World Cup in 2006. He’s risen from the ashes like a phoenix and has stamped his mark in every match that he has played. Top-scoring in the tournament with 15 goals, Sandeep’s time has come, and he’s peaking at the ideal time for India.

India's Sandeep Singh (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against France during their London 2012 Olympic Games men's field hockey final qualifying match in New Delhi February 26, 2012.

All in all, it’s been a tremendously satisfying process to watch the Indians rout all the competition in their way and make it to the glorious position of the winners of the Olympic Qualifiers tournament. I know, things will only get better! 🙂

 

4 more years to the Olympics, maybe.Who cares?

So tonight and the loss to South Africa in the finals of the Olympic Qualifier Finals means that the Indian Women’s Hockey team has failed to qualify for the London Olympics. This means that the team has to wait for 4 more years to try and qualify for the next Olympic games.

But here’s the real deal – who cares?

South African players celebrate their victory against India for the final position of the FIH London 2012 Olympic Hockey qualifying tournament at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on February 25, 2012.

Shelley Russell (C) of South Africa celebrates a goal with teammates during the women's field hockey match between India and South Africa for the final position of the FIH London 2012 Olympic Hockey qualifying tournament at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on February 25, 2012.

It makes me so mad. It makes me so angry. It makes me want to hit my head against the wall when there is such a step-motherly treatment for the so-called national game of my country. And it makes me sad to see the state of the team, the state of the players, their well-trained, muscular opponents outclassing them even when our team clearly has ample more skills and talent.

It makes me mad when a male laughs and asks mockingly, ‘Is there a women’s team? Oh I seriously didn’t know’ . I feel like pointing them towards the amazing female players that our women’s team has and the stupendous effort they’ve made to reach the finals of this qualifying tournament. If only people would care enough to pick up and actually read the newspaper that is delivered to their home everyday.  It makes me sad when people have such low expectations from the women team and demand the opposite from the male team. Why? Why the difference in perception? Since when has it become fashionable to bring down and mock female participation in sports? Do women play only so that male spectators can come to jeer and ogle? Do they? Do they?

South Africa's Lesle-Ann George (L) fights for the ball with India's captain Asunta Lakra during their London 2012 Olympic Games women's field hockey final qualifying match in New Delhi February 25, 2012.

It breaks my heart when virtually no friend of mine follows this glorious sport. The sport that has won India 8 Olympic golds. It makes me sad that people would actually watch a TV premier of a movie and not the Olympic Qualifier finals for their national women’s team. It makes me so so sad. It makes me so angry.

But as I said, who cares?

The team will slog on for the coming 4 years and try to make it to the Olympics, try to better their ranking. But will anything change? Will the perception change? That is why our team desperately needed the win tonight – to shut up a lot of people and show them how the game is played. To show them that women don’t play with any less passion or dedication when compared to men. To show that we have an equal stake. Yes we do.

Do you care?