A nation of 1.2 billion has only a handful of Olympics medals to boast of – 26 to be precise. Can they change their luck at Rio is a question on a billion minds, but the task may not be that easy.
Ever since the Beijing Games, buzz has returned around the Indian contingent, something that was just reserved for the hockey teams as they went on to win 8 out of the 9 gold medals that India have earned so far. The 2012 London Games were the best so far with 6 medals for India, but that has made the task tougher for the Indian contingent.
The Indians must be high in hopes as this is the biggest contingent to represent their country, but can that translate into their biggest haul ever?
Even though it’s difficult to predict but going by the draws, their recent forms and opponents, shooter Jitu Rai looks the best bet in the 50 m and 10 m pistol events. Rai had phenomenal 2014 and 2015 and would count on his composure and Mr. Cool image to lead the Indian charge. Off course don’t forget the resilience of Abhinav Bindra as he takes aim at yet another Olympics.
This may also be the Olympics to remember for Saina Nehwal. The diminutive shuttler has tasted individual success against the very best but can she go past the likes of Li Xuerui and her bete noire Carolina Marin of Spain? Those who been watching Saina closely know it’s all in the mind as there is very little that separates the top six women players. Hopes ride high on the shoulders of Sania Mirza as she partners Rohan Bopanna in the mixed doubles tennis. Interesting match-up could be against the Swiss as Mirza would have to slug out against her successful partner Martina Hingis as she pairs up with Roger Federer.
Also one can never write off ageless Leander Paes, the touch artist who will be partnering Bopanna in men’s doubles.
The player with maximum pressure to perform could be wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt who had to slug out an emotionally sapping battle against Sushil Kumar for the right to represent India in Rio.
India would also be hopeful of some metal from the archers, especially Dipika Kumari and Bombayla Devi.
Indian hockey team has also looked in good nick this year, but can they carry their form into their toughest challenge so far would be worth watching.
India would also look at individual glory from Anirban Lahiri in golf and Dipika Karmarkar in gymnastics, but odds are heavy against them.
Vidhanshu Kumar is a journalist and media academic.