India’s campaign at the Rio Olympics 2016 was disappointing. Indian athletes managed to win only two medals (a silver and a bronze) even as they were part of the largest ever contingent sent to Olympics by the country. Barring badminton star PV Sindhu and wrestler Sakshi Malik and gymnast Dipa Karmakar, who ended fourth, there were hardly any athlete who impressed, many even bowed out unceremoniously.
India’s dismal performance triggered a debate in the country over the reasons of the athletes’ failure at the Olympics. A dominant reason pointed out by many is the apathy of government (read public servants and politicians) and sports authorities towards sportspersons in particular and sports in general. This reason became more convincing when Marathon runner OP Jaisha revealed she could have died of dehydration during her run as she was not provided water and energy drinks by the Indian officials.
Government’s apathy towards sports in India can be said to be one of the major reasons behind athletes’ failure. But it can’t be the only reason. Badminton legend Prakash Padukone also feels the same. “I have been noticing a tendency to blame the government for all our problems in Rio, and I do not support this approach,” Padukone writes in the Times of India.
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He says, this time, athletes must hold themselves accountable for the failure. “In fact, I will go to the extent of saying that for the first time in the history of Indian sport, I will not hold the Sports Ministry or SAI responsible for our below par performance. To some extent the athletes themselves have to be held accountable for their performance,” the former badminton star writes.
Padukone says the Union Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India and some private organisations spent a lot of money on training of Olympic probables. “Sadly, the money spent hasn’t yielded medals.”
According to Padukone, Indian athletes failed to ensure that they were at their “peak” during their events. The increased funding “served on a platter” may even have made some of them “take things for granted”.
Padukone’s explanation for India’s failure at the Rio Olympics does sound valid to an extent. For the entire contingent can’t escape accountability and we can’t always blame the government. Increased spending is no guarantee of an Olympics medal unless athletes perform at their best.
Padukone’s explanation has also made someone happy. She is none other than Shobhaa De, who was viciously trolled for suggesting on Twitter that Indian athletes at Rio were only interested in getting selfies, wasting money and opportunity. Today Shobhaa took to the Twitter to share Padukone’s ToI article and also captioned it “Best perspective. Prakash Padukone nails it.”