With three medals in its kitty including a gold in individual events, could the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games be a turning point for Indian sports with wrestler Sushil Kumar getting the country a bronze in wrestling after a gap of 56 years and boxer Vijender Kumar having qualified for the semifinals raising hopes of a gold or silver.
What a day it has been for Indian sport this August 20 for ironically it was on this day too that the Indian cricketers won second one day international cricket against Sri Lanka making the series level at 1-1 but a good sign that this was relegated to the background in the wake of the performances at the Olympics.
The bronze in wrestling at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics was bagged by the lone wrestler K.D. Jadhav though it was unfortunate that he is remembered only now when 25-year-old Sushil Kumar took the bronze.
Son of a driver in Delhi, a look at the kind of place Sushil Kumar trained is indeed amazing that he got a medal at the Olympics.
Sushil has been residing at the Chhatrasal Stadium in the capital where he along with 19 others shares a room with two to a bed and for company at this residential facility he has rats, cockroaches and cobwebs despite which he went on to stand on the victory podium of a sport which rather unfortunately nobody in this country bothered about at the Games.
?With this medal, we hope our needs are better looked after than before. Here there are 20 people to a room with two people to a bed. Not all rooms have coolers like ours, and we have to share the space with rats and other animals. Here, there is room for everybody,? said Arvind, another roommate of Sushil.
One hopes that this medal would at least make the authorities wake up and provide the facilities necessary for our athletes to do even better than what they have done now at the Beijing Olympics.
?You may not have given me a chance,? said Sushil Kumar to the mediapersons at the Games venue after he got the bronze but ?I knew otherwise.?
The youngster from the capital standing at 5?4″ fights in the 66 kg category freestyle wrestling.
Of course, it has been a long haul for Kumar who was in the 60 kg category at Athens Olympics where he made an early exit though ranked fourth in the world. In 2005 he moved into the present 66 kg category finishing eighth at the Asian Championships in Wuhan in China.
The next year he was given the Arjuna Award and went on to win a bronze at the Asian Games in Doha.
He made it to Beijing when he finished seventh at the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan last year.
Sushil Kumar won a silver medal at the Asian Championships at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan last year.
Clearly this shows that Abhinav Bindra, Vijendra Kumar and Sushil Kumar could well be torch-bearers for Indian sportspersons in the years to come provided those in charge of sports in this country do not forget these athletes after showering them with largesse and then leaving them to their fate.
It is rather unfortunate that this has been the case with many a sportsman as in the case of Jadhav who brought India'sfirst individual bronze medal at the Helsinki Olympics and after that one never heard of him.
Similar was the case with many of the hockey stars of yesteryears whose wizardy with the stick got this country gold medals in eight Olympic Games till one honourable gentleman named Mr. K.P.S. Gill took charge of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and ensured that Indian hockey made history by not making it to the Olympics for the first time.
Of course, Mr Gill'smasterstroke of ensuring our hockey players were not there at least made us focus our attention on other sports and create history with India getting three medals in individual events including a gold.
Ironically, the hosts and our neighbours China dominated the show pushing the super power of sports, USA to second spot by winning the highest number of medals. Surely a lesson in this for this country that it is time we started encouraging sportsmen and not just all the time focussing on the men in flannels or the ?men in blue? as our cricketers have come to be known.