India’s ‘feat’ of winning gold, silver and bronze at the Beijing Olympics 2008 has heightened expectations in London

A fortnight from now, the quadrennial sports extravaganza called the Olympics, unfolds at London. And as with the run-up to every Olympics, the Indian medal hopes rise and recede like an ocean wave, as the country’s prospects are dicey in any given discipline.

Hockey heroes

Gold in field hockey was India’s staple diet in the Olympics from 1928 to 1956, but that too became elusive.

India’s first gold medal in hockey came in Amsterdam in 1928; the country went on to dominate the next six editions, but eventually lost its hold on the gold. The last gold medal of 1980 at the Moscow Games came in an edition boycotted by the West, following the erstwhile Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, thereby marring India’s glory.

Since then, the Indian hockey team has been in the hunt for that elusive gold, failing even to quality for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The team finds itself in London, where it won the gold in the post-war Games in 1948. It has been placed in a difficult group, which includes the European hockey powers, Holland and Germany.

Beijing record

In individual sports, India’s first gold came only in the Beijing Olympics 2008, courtesy shooter Abhinav Bindra.

In the same games, Vijender Singh won a silver in boxing and Sushil Kumar took home a bronze in wrestling. The ‘feat’ at the Beijing Games has now heightened Indian expectations for London 2012.

Shooting remains a big hope and the burden of bringing home a medal squarely rests again on Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi.

In boxing, Vikas Krishna and Mary Kom have emerged as the nation’s best bet. All eyes will be on archer Deepika Kumari, a world cup gold medallist in individual recurve.

Advantage India

Badminton has suddenly emerged as a medal prospect, thanks to world number 5 Saina Nehwal. After winning four Super Series tournaments in 2010, Saina had an impressive run in 2011, as she was a runner-up in four Super Series events again. In a warm-up to the London Olympics, she won back to back titles at the Thailand Open and the Indonesian Open. Also in medal contention in badminton is the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and V. Diju.

Tennis has been in the spotlight as a probable medal mine for India. Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna would make a formidable pair in men’s doubles. A medal in the mixed doubles gold looks a distinct possibility, provided Sania Mirza and Leander Paes put all the fracas that marked the selection behind them and play as Team India.

The Indian contingent might not return with a huge haul of medals, but it may just better its Beijing benchmark.

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