Olympics: Success despite Covid

Olympics: Success despite Covid

Credit: PTI Photo

Olympics in the time of a pandemic has a larger import than a mere sporting event. Delayed by a year and constantly under threat of being disrupted due to a raging Covid-19 pandemic, the Games were held successfully, celebrating the triumph of not just sporting but human spirit as well. As the Tokyo 2020 drew to a close on Sunday, it also offered an Indian high with javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra leading the golden charge. While an increasing number of virus cases ensured that the stadiums were devoid of fans, it did little to dampen the athletes' resolve to excel as records tumbled galore, especially in swimming and the showpiece event of the Games - athletics. Like any Olympics, Tokyo Games were also replete with stories of shocking upsets and near misses, unalloyed joy and gut-wrenching sorrow. But it wasn't just restricted to that as mental health too came under scrutiny. Gymnast legend Simone Biles of the USA didn't compete in most of the events due to the twisties, primarily triggered by depression, and it revealed that supremely fit athletes aren’t immune to a fragile mind. While her pull out did shock the world, there was also empathy for the 24-year-old all-around, perhaps reflecting upon the times we live in.    

Closer home, it was all about a resurgent India. Ever since its debut at the 1900 Olympics, it was all about fading hopes and the odd medal, initially gained through hockey before other sporting categories feebly turned the tide. India registered their new high in London in the 2012 edition with six medals. Cut to the present, India did one better, finishing at seven and that too with a golden hue as Chopra hurled his javelin to 87.58 m. This was the nation’s first gold in Olympic athletics and the second individual gold after shooter Abhinav Bindra gunned down at the Beijing Games in 2008. Chopra's fabulous effort proved to be a fitting climax to India’s remarkable performance while at the same time driving home the point that the bar is so low for a country of over 1.3 billion. If Chopra provided an exhilarating finish to India's campaign, over a fortnight, a few of their other athletes kept the interest chugging. Mirabai Chanu won a silver in the women’s 49 kg weightlifting to open the account while wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya lent an encore in the 57 kg section. Other bronze medal winners were P V Sindhu in badminton, Lovlina Borgohain in boxing and Bajrang Punia in wrestling. 

India's story of this Olympics, however, remained the remarkable resurgence of hockey. Manpreet Singh’s men finishing with bronze, an Olympic medal after 41 years, and Rani Rampal’s feisty women picking up a fourth spot sent the nation on an emotional ride.