Medal hopes are high from India’s Olympic contingent. But even before the first Indian athlete competes, there are several cheery messages from the size and composition of the team itself. At 127 athletes, this is India’s largest contingent to the games. And that India is competing in 18 disciplines also shows definite sporting progress. Small states like Haryana and Punjab again demonstrate their sporting culture, accounting for 40% of the contingent. But that Tamil Nadu (11), Kerala (8), Maharashtra (6) and Manipur (5) are contributing to the Olympic effort shows India’s top athletes today are coming from across the country.
The spread also means it’s not just that traditional sporting hubs are working, but new hubs are emerging. So, there’s Haryana, which is sending seven wrestlers and four boxers to Tokyo, Kerala, boasting of six participants in Tokyo’s track and field events, and Manipur, whose contingent is exemplified by the extraordinary MC Mary Kom, who will be India’s co-flagbearer in Tokyo. But there are also Tripura and Bengal as gymnastics talent pools, Tamil Nadu as another badminton hub, and Satara, Maharashtra, re-emerging as a place to watch for wrestling.
Equally, if not more, cheery is the fact that many athletes have overcome huge life challenges. There’s the inspiring and humbling story of Revathi Veeramani, orphaned at 7, raised by a daily wager grandmother and now a member of India’s 4x400m mixed relay team for Tokyo. Assam’s pugilist Lovlina Borgohain hails from distant Golaghat district, around 287 km from state capital Dispur. Gymnast Pranati Nayak’s father drove a bus to support his family. And these and other women in Team India for Tokyo tell another story: A much-awaited better gender balance in top level sports. In fact, 49% of all countries’ athletes in Tokyo are women. We hope India’s medal haul is as rich as Team India’s diversity.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
END OF ARTICLE