Let’s accept it, we don’t know our Olympians unless they win a medal. How many of us were familiar with Vijendra Singh or Mary Kom before they actually won? Very few. And, that’s a sad truth to face. Through over the years the country’s engagement with Olympic athletes has increased thanks to the win followed by movies made on these players (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom), most of these are recognised and appreciated way after their time.
Indian athletes have won 28 medals at the Olympics so far. In fact, the Indian National Field Hockey team dominated the Olympics with 11 medals in 12 Olympics, between 1920 and 1980. Yet, a cricket-addicted country gives little space to its other game-changers. Even the government funding to most of these athletes is dismal. We sent the largest contingent so far to the Rio Olympics but returned with the least number of medals in history. The funds given by the government weren’t utilized properly, mainly because becoming an Oympian is not an overnight goal. It takes years of proper training, nutrition and infrastructure and exposure through participation in International competitions which most of these athletes lack.
Providing adequate training and resources is perhaps the second step, the first is acknowledgement. So on World Olympics Day, Impact Guru would like to acknowledge the hard work of these heroes who are patiently and silently gearing up to win a gold at Tokyo 2020. Let’s get to know them before they win us a medal!
Age: 25 years
Achievements: Gold medalist at 2016 South Asian Games + Qualifier at the 2016 Olympics in Rio
Judo isn’t a popular sport which naturally puts Avtar way down the list of Athletes you will recognize. Avtar is a 24-year-old from Punjab who worked for the Punjab armed police force. In 2016, he bagged a gold at the South Asian Games in Guwahati. He was the first Judoka in 12 years to qualify for Olympics in 2014. His achievements in the sport has provided a much needed boost to other aspiring judokas in the country, and motivation for them to take up the sport competitively. He currently trains under Arjuna Awardee Judoku, Yashpal Solanki and has his eyes on the gold!
Age: 21 years
Achievements: National champion in women’s 100 meters sprint + qualifier at the 2016 Olympics in Rio
Dutee Chand represented India in the 100 meters sprint in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She clocked 11.69 seconds to complete the 100-metre race while her personal best was 11.24 seconds. Previously, she was instrumental in a major change in the regulations of the International Olympics Committee, when she was dropped last minute from the 2014 Commonwealth games, for hyperandrogenism. After the Indian Government made an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports on her behalf, the regulation for hyperandrogenism was dropped in 2015, stating there was no direct connect between enhanced androgen levels and athletic performance. While the 2016 Olympics may not have been her best performance, she wasn’t disheartened by the results, but instead motivated to work harder. She now has her mind set on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Age: 24 years
Sport: Freestyle wrestling
Achievements: Bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio + Silver medal list at the 2014 Commonwealth Games + Bronze medalist at the South Asian Games of 2015
At a very young age, her passion for wrestling took her from a small akhada in Rohtak straight to the Olympics. Indian freestyle wrestler Sakshi Malik won our hearts when she brought India its first medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Her bronze victory in the 58 kg category was celebrated nationwide, as it made her the first Indian female wrestler, and the fourth Indian woman to have won at the Olympic games. Today she is supported by the JSW Excellence Program, and her efforts are only getting stronger, and training harder, for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, where she aspires to become a double Olympic medalist. Sakshi got her masters degree in physical education from the Maharshi Dayanand University in Rohtak. In September 2016, after her achievement at the Olympics, she was appointed as the university’s wrestling director.
Age: 30 years
Sport: Shot put
Achievements: Qualified at the 2012 London Olympics + 2014 Commonwealth Games
Om Prakash Singh Karhanan is a 6ft 7in tall Indian shot putter who held record at 20.69 meters which he achieved in May 2012 at Szombathely, Hungary and he qualified for and competed at the 2012 London Olympics. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he reached the final, finishing in 6th place. Karhana, who was originally a basketball player, was approached by the secretary of the Athletics Federation of India, and advised to try his hand at shot put. Clearly, that paid off well. His training at the Salwan Throws Academy is financially supported by the by Olympic Gold Quest, a nonprofit foundation to identify and support Indian athletes.
Age: 23 years
Achievements: Only Indian para swimmer to have achieved the ‘A’ qualifying mark for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio
Suyash Jadhav’s story is a particularly inspiring one. He started swimming at a very young age, but a terrible accident changed his life. He came into contact with a live wire which electrocuted both his hands, and they had to be amputated. Not giving up on his journey, he continued his training 2 years after the accident. He was hell bent on competing at the the 2014 Asian Games, 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 World Championship and the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Due to financial constraints, combined with the suspension of the Paralympic Committee of India, he had a setback. All said and done, he was the only Indian swimmer to achieve the ‘A’ qualification mark at the 2016 Paralympics, bringing immense glory to the Indian name. He is currently training extensively for the Asian Games World Championship and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with support from the GoSports Foundation.
Age: 22 years
Achievements: Qualified for finals at the 2016 Rio Olympics + Gold medalist at 2014 Commonwealth Games + Bronze medalist at 2014 Asian Games
Even those who aren’t clued in to sports are well aware of the Phogat sisters because of the hit movie ‘Dangal’, which is based on their achievements in women’s wrestling. Hailing from the same family is Vinesh Phogat, who has already won several accolades in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Due to an unfortunate knee injury during the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics, she had to back out of the competition for a knee surgery. In spite of the disheartening incident, she was thankful to all her supporters and well wishers, and promised them a gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in a series of tweets she posted. We’re really looking forward to that!
Age: 23 years
Achievements: Ranked 3rd in the bantamweight category in the AIBA Men’s World Ranking, Gold medalist at the Asian Games
Born to a family with deeply involved in martial arts, Shiv Thapa is an Indian boxer from Guwahati, Assam, who decided to participate in the 2012 London Olympics, making him the youngest Indian boxer to ever qualify for the Olympics. One of his greatest inspirations which made him take up boxing professionally was the legend, Mike Tyson. Awed by Tyson, Thapa entered the vigorous regime of boxing following a schedule that required him to wake up at 3 am everyday, to balance his studies along with his training needs. India’s highest rated boxer in the AIBA ranking lists (6th) and World Championship Bronze medalist. His training is supported by Olympic Gold Quest and Anglian Medal Hunt Company.
Age: 21 years
Achievements: Silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics + Ranked world no. 3 by the Badminton World Federation
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, when India was faring quite poorly, with no wins to our name, PV Sindhu emerged to the rescue by qualifying for the finals in the women’s singles category. Her silver medal made her the youngest Indian to ever achieve a podium finish in an individual event at the Olympics. Sindhu’s main source for inspiration in the sport is now also her coach, Pulella Gopichand. Her gallant performance at the 2016 Olympics has given all India high hopes for a gold at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.
Age: 23 years
Sport: Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
Achievements: Bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games
The last time an Indian participant qualified in gymnastics at the Olympic Games was way back in 1964. Dipa Karmakar who won the Bronze at 2014 Commonwealth Games, has become the first female Indian gymnast to have qualified for the honour with her amazing performance at the controversial Produnova vault. Dipa is the fifth woman in the history of gymnastics to land the Produnova vault, which is considered a death vault, and placed fourth in the Women’s Vault Gymnastics in the Rio Olympics. Though she missed a medal by a meagre 0.15 points, she won the hearts of all Indians, with the risk she took by attempting the Produnova vault. Dipa stated that she is not disappointed about missing the medal, but instead she learned a lot that she can apply while training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We look forward to her performance!
These athletes have the grit and determination, all they need is a little motivation from us. While there are public, private and non-profit organisations helping them, it’s not enough. They need US to back them. After all, the medal will be won for the whole country! Internationally many Olympians have raised money on crowdfunding sites to fill in the gaps left by government funding. We can empower Indian Olympians through crowdfunding too!
Start a fundraiser for any Olympian of your choice and motivate them towards victory!