Today I’m at the Olympics and I’m very proud to be Indian. You might have heard the story of Abhinav Bindra, the Shooter from India who just won the country’s first Gold medal in over 25 years and first individual Gold medal ever. To say he is a hero to more than a billion people around the world is a serious understatement. This morning, I also had the chance to attend the men’s gymnastics final and see Raj Bhavsar compete with the American team to win the Bronze medal against considerable odds (check out my Flickr stream for lots of photos of the final). India is not usually part of the big story that you expect to hear coming out of the Olympics. And perhaps by next week the performances of Raj and Abhinav will be a distant memory. But for today I can sit here and think to myself this was a very good day for India and the billion plus Indians around the world.
In fact, I hope that it means something even more to India’s future. Abhinav is also one of our Lenovo bloggers and posted on his blog about what he hopes his achievement will mean for the next generation of athletes and the Olympics in India. His thoughts are a wonderful story of not just what happens when an underappreciated athlete from an underestimated country wins big, but how the voice of one athlete could make a difference to an entire nation:
They have all been telling me what a huge achievement winning Gold is. I realise that but frankly the enormity of the goodwill generated has caught me by surprise. Honestly enough it really has not changed me, I am still the same Abhinav who just a day ago was hanging around alone in my room in the Olympic village. Frankly, all the attention is a bit overwhelming. I am not much good at making loud public pronouncements. That in no way means that this is not the most intense experience of my life.
For more than a decade now my life has been all about my sport. In fact, I do not have a life beyond the confines of the 10m range. I have had a range built in my own home to cut down any possibility of distraction and to be able to practise my sport whenever the fancy strikes me. It all did pay off, didn’t it? It has all still not sunk in. I will post more once the feeling settles.
I ran away from all the media and official attention yesterday after I had done the bit I had do in keeping with my new-found status. Instead I chose to go to a quiet dinner with some friends. I would like to reiterate that everyone who represents India at the Olympic Games has put in years of toil and sweat. I ask the Indian people to support our athletes more. It is fine to celebrate our achievements but it is just as important to keep up the backing when we are not on top of our game.
It is important for India to do better at Olympic sport as these are the true measure of a nation’s sporting depth. I wish more private initiatives come up with corporate support apart from the backing of the government. The joy that the nation feels at my win is humbling. I just wish that this is repeated more and more often. With our depth of talent and expanse of people I firmly believe India can be a world-class sporting power. What we need are precise systems. I will try to do my bit at grooming the next generation. I would like to appeal to each Indian to also do their bit in prodding us out of sporting complacency.
Congratulations Abhinav and Raj!