A whole nation, cricket-frenzy that is, erupted in joy following a brief sigh as Sakshi Malik and P V Sindhu got home the only two medals that India managed in the Rio Olympics 2016.
When Sakshi won the bronze medal late night on August 18, a bright smile crept up on each face who witnessed the game and what erupted the next morning was a flurry of emotions. India’s casket had been empty till the woman wrestler fought till the dying seconds of her match to snatch the medal and bring it home.
When Dipa Karmakar, India’s only woman gymnast to have made it to the final of the Olympics event, Abhinav Bindra, the sole Indian individual Olympic gold medallist and Rohan Bopanna-Sania Mirza missed the medals by a whisker, India let off a long sigh applauding their efforts nonetheless.
Sakshi Malik’s victory gave India to celebrate in style.
Following her bronze, P V Sindhu became India’s star shuttler as she destroyed Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals to become the first Indian woman to reach the final of the event and guaranteed the country a silver medal. Of course, her quest for gold remained unfulfilled with her loss to Carolina Marin in the final but India at least had another medal.
Now, the whole nation is being mocked by many for their wild celebrations for two “losing medals” (English journalist Piers Morgan said so on social media) but what they fail to understand is the magnitude of the achievement of those two medals. In a country that downplays its womenfolk and still holds them back from achieving their full potential, India’s show at Olympics 2016 was the women’s show. Be it the medal getters Sindhu and Sakshi, or Dipa and Lalita Babar, who entered the final of 3000m steeplechase and became the first woman after PT Usha to do so, Indian Olympic contingent in Rio cheered for these women achievers.
At a time when India is going through a revolution in mindset, economy and much more, the women’s show at Olympics brought about a societal as well as a sporting upheaval. Despite the fact that India and West Indies were playing a Test series in the Carribean, the Indian audience was glued to the television sets to watch Dipa perform gymnastics, Sakshi fight out her wrestling bout and Sindhu take on the world’s best shuttlers. What these women have achieved is as grand as the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorials.
Sakshi Malik belongs to a state (Haryana) that has an infamous reputation for its sex ratio. Despite being from Haryana, Sakshi has come out to be as invaluable and as strong as any man and a huge amount of its credit must be attributed to her parents. Sakshi’s father in an interview mentioned that people used to tell him that he shouldn’t let Sakshi wrestle because it doesn’t suit a girl but today, she has achieved such a status that girls want to be like her. Sakshi has been made the brand ambassador of ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ in Haryana but the most delightful statement of the new ambassador was “I am also happy that Beti Khilao is now also included in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme.”
The need of the country is to encourage people to pursue sports and make it a flourishing and opportunity-filled field. Pullela Gopichand, former All England Championship winner and Sindhu’s coach, in an interview said that the system has to be built in such a way that if a child shows interest towards sports, he/she should be encouraged and supported by the system, the government, the school and parents. He said that there’s a need to build a system-dependent environment. Like Gopichand has said, Sindhu has been fortunate for having such parents who have themselves been national-level volleyball players and understand sports and its goodness. On court, throughout the Rio Olympics, Sindhu looked fierce; a fierceness that is often associated with the willpower of a woman. She was seen encouraging her own self shouting “c’mon” to herself. It defined the only thing that women need to rise up for; encouragement!
Both Sakshi and Sindhu displayed undying spirit on their respective courts and that is something sports teaches one and all. Gone are the days when sayings like “padhoge likhoge banoge nawab, kheloge koodoge banoge kharab” worked, sports teaches one that no other profession does and that is sportsmanspirit, something that is a lesson of a lifetime; something that can help one lead a calm, composed and happy life, in sports or not.
India has a long way to go when it comes to the field of sports but its at least rising as a society and that’s a major step towards becoming a fulfilled nation in all arenas. India may have won only two medals this year at the Olympics but it imbibed something that is much more precious for the future, a growing mindset and a fierce outlook! You never know, the cricket dead-lock may just have been breached.
"Unknown people in the villages are coming and greeting me, giving me shagun (blessings), and want to touch my medal. It was my dream over the last 12 years and this medal is for all the Sakshis in Haryana. I want them all to come and start playing and achieve this dream like me - SAKSHI MALIK
"It’s truly a different feeling. I feel my life has changed. I never thought I will get the medal at Olympics. It was my first Olympics. I am really happy. It’s a dream come true. Millions of people supported me. I think their support, blessings and prayers helped me - P V SINDHU