Monday, June 27News That Matters

Golden show in Tokyo

The stunning throw of 87.58 metres, with which Neeraj Chopra won the javelin throw gold at the Tokyo Olympics, made Saturday India’s best day ever in their Olympics journey — wrestler Bajrang Punia had won bronze less than an hour before Chopra threw the javelin past 87 metres on his first two attempts. Chopra’s medal, India’s second gold in an individual event in all Olympics, took our haul from the Tokyo Olympics to seven. The previous best was six at London 2012, while the previous individual gold came in 2008, from shooter Abhinav Bindra. India’s shooters, who went to Tokyo with high hopes, returned empty-handed from their second consecutive Olympics after medalling in three Olympics in a row from 2004 — if they had performed to potential, India’s medal count would have passed 10.

Chopra’s gold, India’s first medal ever in athletics — Norman Pritchard won two silver at Paris in 1900 while representing India, but he was a British citizen — is rightly being hailed as historic for it was won in a mainstream sport that demands a very high degree of athleticism, strength and technical finesse. Before Chopra arrived on the scene, the hope of India winning an Olympics track and field medal — let alone gold! — seemed an impossible dream. The performance by the hockey teams was exceptional, too, with the men winning bronze to end a 41-year drought. The silver won by Ravi Dahiya and Mirabai Chanu and the bronze by PV Sindhu — the first Indian woman to win medals in two Olympics — were just rewards of great performances.

The most pleasing aspect of India’s show was that the circle of India’s competitiveness expanded, if ever so slightly, in Tokyo. Aditi Ashok was in contention for a golf medal until the very end; fencer Bhavani Devi and Fouaad Mirza in equestrian impressed, too. All in all, the festival of sport went off pretty well, despite an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases in Tokyo. Crucially, the pre-Olympics horror scenario, as projected by Japan’s doctors and health experts, was averted. Over time, we’ll know the cost to Japan’s economy for holding the Olympics during the pandemic. For now, let’s celebrate our and the world’s exceptional athletes.

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