Rio 2016 Olympics India’s Day 1 preview: Men’s hockey team to Jitu Rai lead Indian challenge today

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Rio De Janeiro | Updated: Aug 06, 2016 7:56 PM

Rio 2016 Olympics India’s Day 1 preview: The athletes are all prepped up, including the Indian contingent, on whose able shoulders rest the hopes of 1.2 billion people

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Rio 2016 Olympics India’s Day 1 preview: The opening ceremony is over and Brazil has shown its intent to make this Olympics as special as it can be for the entire world. The athletes are all prepped up, including the Indian contingent, on whose able shoulders rest the hopes of 1.2 billion people whose expectations from their athletes and their own aspirations are increasingly soaring higher. The Indian contingent consists of as many as 118 sportspersons spanning 15 disciplines. The best that the Indian Olympic contingent has done was win 6 medals in the previous event held in London in 2012. But that is not going to be a benchmark as much more is expected from a team that has put in all the hard work that is required. The pride of India is at stake and that by itself will egg on the Indian athletes to ever greater achievements.

With that as the background virtually engraved in the Indian sportsmen’s mind, the first man on whom this huge responsibility rests on in the first few hours will be Jitu Rai in the 10 metre air rifle event; a sports that he has mastered over the years and now is the time for him to go ahead and prove his worth and show how hard he worked to get himself into the best shape for the Olympics in order to give India a precious medal, preferably gold. That this is his first Olympics will add to the pressure but should not stand in the way of him performing at the top of his game. He should be able to draw confidence from the fact that he bagged a silver at the World Cup in Azerbaijan in June.

As far as the Indian women athletes are concerned, the going will be especially tough. They have limited exposure and even though now they have the best equipment they lack the experience at the top end. But that does not mean that they can’t compete on the same footing as the best. Olympics is a stage where athletes deliver performances that are virtually super-human and that is exactly what our prepped-up women athletes have promised to do and nothing less is expected by the country at large from them.
A case in point is that of Indian rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal who competed today in the men’s single skulls qualifying round. This is an event that Indian athletes have traditionally found tough to compete well in, but Bhokanal has done his country proud today by forcing his way into the top 3 list! His special performance is praiseworthy and indicates that he has made a huge effort to defeat some of the favourites in the event. Bhokanal entered the quarters after finishing 3rd in his qualifying round at the Rio Olympics on Saturday.

However, the Olympics have many more events where Indian atheltes will be playing and arguably the most popular of them will be men’s hockey. The Indian team is one of the best and comes off some singularly superior performances in recent months. Their practice sessions have gone very well and these have translated into victories in major tournaments. But one thing that may pose a problem is that the team’s captain has been replaced at a late hour just ahead of the Olympics – PR Sreejesh is the new skipper. Nevertheless, India is good enough to go to the very top and emerge with a big medal in hockey. They start their campaign against Ireland, which does not have much of a reputation in this event, but have the energy and skills to pose a tough challenge to India. Fans should remember that India has not won a medal at Olympics now for 36 years – it once dominated this sport like a giant.

In yet another sport that India has a vast potential in succeeding is table tennis. Indian athletes have all the skills required and they threatened many times to break into the top. They are flexible and agile and their energy levels ar high as they are amongst the fittest athletes in the world. All the preparation have been made and the lead-up to the Olympics at Rio has been quite successful. However, the competition is more than stiff with both the Asian and European athletes dominating these events for decades. Having said that, Indian paddlers Achanta Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Manika Batra and Mouma Das, who will be seen in action in men’s and women’s singles round one respectively today will look to do their best for themselves and their country. Now, we come to the most successful Indian sportsman/woman ever – we are not counting cricketers here! We are of course talking about tennis and the sportsman/woman concerned are the iconic Leander Paes and Sania Mirza. They will be stepping out with a huge responsibility to get the gold medal for India. They are arguably the best tennis players in the tournament in the doubles at least. While there have been a number of controversies regarding partners for Paes, but now those have been buried as they try their best to deliver some outstanding results – nothing but the best result is expected of them. The first on the playing arena will be Paes and and Rohan Bopanna in the men’s doubles event. However, Paes faced a tough time on his arrival in Rio on Thursday when his accomodation became a talking point. Also, he has not got enough practice time with the team. Indians will be facing Poland’s Marcel Matkowski and Lukasz Kubot. Another Indian tennis ace Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare will face China’s Peng Shuai and Shuai Zhang in the very first round.

The last to step out on India’s behalf to compete late at night would be Saikhom Mirabai Chanu in the 48-kg weightlifting event. Indians have done well in weightlifting, especially women athletes, and she is expected to do better than usual at the Olympics considering the kind of preparations she put herself through – this will be as late as 03:30 IST on August 7 in India.

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