All those who missed an Olympic medal but finished within 12 places in the final classification of their respective events, will have the consolation of getting Rs. 10 lakh from the Union Sports Ministry, as was announced by the Sports Minister, Ajay Maken on Wednesday when the medallists were taken to Parliament and felicitated by the Speaker of the House, Meira Kumar.
Shooter Joydeep Karmakar, fourth in rifle prone event, double trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi (11th), women's air pistol shooter Heena Sidhu (12th), discus throwers Krishna Poonia (seventh) and Vikas Gowda (eighth), walker K.T. Irfan (tenth), Tintu Luka (11t in women’s 800m), badminton player P. Kashyap (quarterfinalist), boxing quarterfinalists Devendro Singh (light flyweight) and Vijender Singh (middleweight), wrestler Amit Kumar (10th,) in men's freestyle 55kg category and weightlifter Soniya Chanu (7th) in women's 48 kg section made the ‘cut’ for the extended cash award.
Though it was clarified that the additional cash incentive was only for individual events, and not for the 12-placed hockey team, the tennis mixed doubles pair of Leander Paes and Sania Mirza who made the quarterfinals and lost to the eventual champion Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus, should also be eligible for the cash incentive as there was no team competition in tennis in the Olympics.
There was no doubt that the cash incentive would be a welcome balm for the hurt athletes, but quite ironically, the 12th placed in the Olympics were being equated to the world champions and Asian Games champions, in terms of the magnitude of the cash awards!
While getting carried away by the efforts of the Indian sportspersons in the Olympics, the government has, though inadvertently, belittled the best of sporting performances.
In most cases, being a world champion is a far more difficult exercise as the restriction of entries are much less as compared to the Olympics, and in some cases being an Asian champion is as difficult as becoming an Olympic champion owing to the concentration of the top athletes in the sport in the region.
Maybe, in the next step, the Union Sports Ministry may hike the cash awards for the world champions and Asian Games champions suitably.