After three straight editions of no medals at the Summer Olympics stretching from 1984 Los Angels to 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Games, India would go on to win one medal for the next three in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. This would be followed by best showing at Beijing (3) and doubling that account in London. Going into the Rio 2016 Olympics, there are varied predictions and hopes.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief N Ramachandran expects “at least double digits” in medals while adding that the nation not put any pressure on them.
Raninder Singh, president of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), predicted India would win six medals just from shooting – out of a contingent of 12. Vijay Kumar, Olympic silver medallist who didn’t qualify for Rio is more liberal in his expectations by stating he expects “at least four medals in shooting”.
Other agencies like Goldman Sachs reckons India will bag eight medals in Rio including a gold medal. To back their predictions, and their credibility, the firm rightly predicted Team GB’s medal count in 2012 and ten of the top 11 at the same event.
Gracenote, a US based company studied performance data and historical Olympic data to predict India returning home with five medals. It boldly predicts mixed doubles team of Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna to win gold with women’s archery team, Shiva Thapa, Jitu Rai and women’s doubles team to win a bronze medal.
On the other side, Associated Press predicts India will win just two medals at the South American extravaganza that begins with its opening ceremony on August 5. The agency predicts India’s two medallists will be Jitu Rai (silver medal in 50m pistol) and the Mirza/Bopanna (bronze medal).
India’s medal hopes
Realistically, India may return with less than five medals from the first Olympics in South America. Let’s have a look at where the chances stand:
In terms of momentum and ability to win a medal, Jitu Rai is the safest bet – which has been ratified by other agencies and algorithms. The army marksman, ranked number 2 in the world, is a strong contender in the 50m pistol event. Experienced shooters in Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang won’t be fazed by the expectations but their run-in makes them a tough choice to win a medal. Worth keeping an eye out for is Manavjit Singh Sandhu in the trap event.
Another possible contender to stand on the podium is Heena Sidhu and with her world record in 10m air pistol, it is known that she can deliver the big results
Realistic medals: 2
Even without the Bryan Brothers or Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, doubles category looks tough for Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna. Same holds true for women’s doubles pairing of Prarthana Thombare and Sania Mirza but mixed doubles combination of Bopanna and Mirza do have a strong chance of stepping up to the podium.
Realistic medals: 1
Like shooting, India is sending their largest contingent in badminton for the Olympics (7). After injury issues in the past year, former World No 1 Saina Nehwal is starting to feel better and it showed with the win in Australia but Olympics is a different ballgame. If Nehwal is to win India a medal, she has to get rid of her daemons and beat the likes of Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei, Spain’s Carolina Marin and China’s Li Xuerui. PV Sindhu, unfortunately, doesn’t offer that zeal and promise that Nehwal does at this juncture.