Disastrous is probably too strong a word. Strange. We’ll go with that. From the moment its athletes took to the track at Olympic Stadium during the parade of nations, India’s had a really strange time in London. There was the infamous – famous? – lady in red, a dancer in Danny Boyle’s mind bending production, storming – leisurely walking is more accurate – into London with the Indian athletes. An incident so severe the culprit, a graduate student from Bangalore, had to issue a public apology upon her arrival back in India.
Oh and the corruption claims! – the corruption claims. An incredibly shady boxing result deemed by the ESPN commentary team as “daylight robbery” saw Sumit Sangwan go down in the round of 32, despite an appeal. Krishan Vikas lost a bout he had already won after judges penalized the Indian for nine holding fouls during the fight. Manoj Kumar screamed “cheating” as he left the arena after losing to a Brit in dubious fashion. An Indian badminton team claimed the bizarre scandal that rocked the game of backyard kings had affected them directly – referring to the lose on purpose program implemented by some of the better teams in the tournament.
Then there were the jokes. Michael Phelps dominant performance in the pools of Athens, Beijing and London was contrasted with India’s futility by a freaking world renowned scientist:
Just an FYI: Michael Phelps has as many Medals in the
#Olympics – all time – as the country of India, with 1.2 billion people
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 3, 2012
It’s not racist – or some of the other vitriolic claims thrown at deGrasse Tyson and others – to point this out. A country with 1.2 billion people should have better results. Yes Cricket will always be number one – and more importantly, lack of funds and other government priorities play a large role.
Enough with the negative. M.C Mary Kom – easily the winner for best name at the games, move aside Dong² – is the best boxer you’ve never heard about. She’s a five-time Boxing World Champion and six time medalist – there have only been six Women’s Boxing World Championships. Hailing from Manipur, a tiny state in the northeast corner of India – Kom’s story is one of perseverance and passion. Her family didn’t want her to Box. Kom refused to stop, and successfully hid her love for the sport until she won the Manipur state championship in 2000. 12 years later Kom has 12 Gold Medals in international competition, twin boys and now, an Olympic Bronze.
Kom lost her Semifinal fight with Great Britain’s Nicola Adams this morning. After the fight the 5’2, 110 pound fighter apologized to her fans back home for failing to win Gold or Silver. Nonsense. Kom moved up in weight class for the London games. Her lack of size and reach would ultimately be her undoing against Adams.
A Bronze medal is a huge achievement. For thousands of amateur athletes in India the fact that people like Mary Kom exist is even bigger for girls who want to the play the same sports as their fathers, brothers and cousins.
The significance of Kom’s success may be seen in India’s embattled political scene. Manipur is home to an insurgency that has wracked the region for decades. Kom’s siblings worked in the fields to help their struggling farming family, she saved flood allowance money to buy her first pair of gloves. She doesn’t look like the majority of the Indian team, she didn’t get the big endorsements received by her compatriots and yet here is Kom, Bronze in hand. I hope the Indian Olympic Committee takes this to heart when reassessing where their money goes in preparation for Rio 2016.