In the good old days, Olympic preparation for Indian athletes would begin just a few months before the quadrennial extravaganza.Those were the times when qualification norms in various sporting disciplines were not as difficult as they are today.Deepika Kumari is expected to do well in archery.Times have changed. Just as India and Indians have grown in various spheres of life, in sport as well there are a lot of positives to look at. Yet, if we are going to ask ourselves if we will win more medals at the London Olympics, it is difficult to answer that question.With 362 days to go for the big day and the host city fully geared up, there is gloom in India thanks to the doping shame which track and field athletes have brought us. Each day we hear about the National Anti- Doping Agency ( NADA) raiding Sports Authority of India hostels and not sparing even PT Usha’s academy.Add to it the mess that the hockey administration finds itself in with the international body (FIH) snatching away three big events which India was to host, and it would seem everything in Indian sport is chaotic.However, I beg to differ with this kind of thinking. Agreed, in terms of medals we won at the Olympics in the past, there was nothing to show other than the glory from hockey and KD Jadhav’s bronze at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.It took a certain Leander Paes to alter the trend when, in 1996, he won the bronze at Atlanta.advertisementFrom then onwards, at successive Olympics, India has won at least one medal in each edition – bronze from Karnam Malleswari in 2000 at Sydney and a silver from double trap marksman Rajyavardhan Rathore in 2004 at Athens.Then came India’s first individual gold through air rifle ace Abhinav Bindra at Beijing 2008, which was followed by a bronze each from boxer Vijender Kumar and grappler Sushil Kumar.So with just under a year for the curtains to go up in London, are we preparing in the best possible way which can guarantee the nation more medals? I still think as far as medal chances go, hazarding a guess at this stage is indeed premature.Firstly, let us not fool ourselves that we are a nation which produces world- beaters in the sporting arena. Agreed, MS Dhoni’s boys won the ICC ODI World Cup and the No. 1 tag in Test rankings is still there.The average Indian sporting fan knows all these cricket details but few would know that in Ronjan Sodhi, we have a shooter set to be the world No. 1 in double trap.Ronjan Sodhi is a medal prospect.It is a huge achievement for Ronjan and the nation as eight shooters have already qualified for London. Ronjan is in Italy and from here onwards, he will do whatever it takes to win gold in London. But to ask whether he will definitely win gold on that big day is a question which is illogical.On their day, be it Ronjan or Abhinav or Gagan Narang, they can win a medal.At the same time, if you talk of a shooter like Sanjeev Rajput, who had almost lost it after being dropped from the Commonwealth Games squad last year, he has shaped up well.The experts said Sanjeev was mentally fragile. But thanks to the meaningful motivation and advice he gets from motivatorAbha Banerjee, there has been a remarkable transformation in his mental approach, resulting in a 50m rifle 3 positions gold in Changwon earlier this year.Today, Abha is part of Olympic Gold Quest and many more athletes stand to gain from her skills as a person who can make an athlete razor sharp mentally.Such things were virtually unheard of in Indian sport, where athletes with a fragile mind would choke on the big day. And even as the sports ministry fights with the babus in the central government to loosen the purse strings so that more funds can be made available for the training of Indian athletes, it is the support given by Olympic Gold Quest and the Mittal Champions Trust which is heartening.Without expecting quick returns, these virtually unseen forces behind Indian sport are a big boost for our athletes.Let’s take a quick look at the Indians who have qualified for the Olympics. The eight shooters apart, if one starts in alphabetical order, five athletes have qualified in track and field with Mayookha Johny, Vikas Gowda, Gurmeet Singh, Babu Bhai and Om Prakash Karhana making the cut.advertisementEven as the women’s 4×400 relay squad has been exposed thanks to the doping shame, there is still hope that the newer bunch can make the cut.In archery, the women’s recurve team has been making news with stellar performances and is preparing in right earnest for the Olympics. The gymnastics team, too, is currently training in London.In boxing, what needs to be remembered at this stage is there are three Olympic qualifying events waiting to happen and half a dozen Indian male boxers can make the grade.But to think that five- time world champion MC Mary Kom is a sure shot medal prospect in women’s boxing needs to be weighed in the right perspective, since she is now in a higher weight category.Two swimmers – Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal – have qualified with stellar performances and there could be one more through AP Gagan, with more swimming meets coming up.The focus will also be on Saina Nehwal. While the diva of Indian badminton is ranked No. 6 in the world, she has flopped at the majors, be it the world championship, the All England or the Asian Games. However, news of her getting a video analyst to help in her preparations is a big change from the past. It is valuable inputs like these which can make the difference in razorsharp contests.Many more athletes will qualify in the coming months, be it in rowing or yachting. And with tennis also being a big sport for us, things don’t look so gloomy.So what about the final medal count for India in London? It’s best to simply focus on the preparation rather than make projections on the number of medals.
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