Sunday, September 07, 2008

Indian Olympics Swimming performance and media coverage

India rightly celebrated its 3 medallists from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Abhinav Bhindra in shooting, Vijendra Kumar in boxing and Sushil Kumar in wrestling. There was also some excitement on good performance of few other athletes like Akhil Kumar, Saina Nehwal, etc. However, I couldn't bear to listen and read negative reports in news channels and various editorials and opinions on other Indian athletes at Beijing Olympics. True some deserve it for delivering very much below par performance such as Sania Mirza, Anju Bobby George. But a large number of others did as well as could be expected, if not better, and got little encouragement from the Indian media. These are folks who have put it hard work for many many years since childhood to be able to achieve what they did. Most media commentators showed little knowledge about the sports they were talking about and just chose to criticize the fact that they did not bring home a medal! This type of uninformed opinions is bad and damaging for the morale of current and other aspiring athletes. Here I highlight one sport, swimming, which took the brunt of such harsh commentary.

The Indian swimming squad for Beijing Olympics was represented by the following along with the results they achieved in their respective events. Results data are given in the following sequence:
Event : Personal best before Olympics : Time obtained in Olympics : Placing / Out of Total participants

Virdhawal Khade (17):
50m Freestyle : 22.69 : 22.73 : 40th / 97
100m Freestyle: 50.49 : 50.07 : 42nd / 64
200m Freestyle: 1:50.35 : 1:51.86 : 48th / 57

Rehan Poncha (23):
200m Butterfly : 2:01.40 : 2:01.89 : 40th / 44

Sandeep Sejwal (19):
100m Breast : 1:03.58 : 1:02.19 : 32nd / 63
200m Breast : 2:18.23 : 2:15.24 : 36th / 52

Ankur Poseria, US based (21):
100m Butterfly: 53.68 : 54.74 : 57th / 65th

Swimming is a very difficult sport. Of the 7 events, I believe only Khade had hopes for making the semi-finals in his 50m freestyle event. All others were aware that they were only going for getting experience. In 3 of the 7 events (50m freestyle, 100m, 200m breast) the athletes have bettered their personal best, 2 more (200m butterfly, 100m freestyle) they were fairly close and in only 2 (100m butterfly, 200m freestyle) they were more than a second below their best. Though Khade failed to make the grade for semifinals he did finish 40th out of the 97 who participated which is quite good. Overall it was good achievement for the largest ever Indian Olympic swimming contingent. The swimmers were poised and showed they belonged at the highest levels of the sport. This can only mean more and better things to come as long as they continue their training and get all the required encouragement and support from the sports bodies.

I hope the media also does its part and highlights the achievements instead of just negative criticism on misplaced goals. All 4 above have trained for more than 10 yrs and some have moved their families to find better facilities and coaches. They deserve our kudos and appreciation for taking Indian swimming to a new high!

Timing sources: Beijing Olympics Official website, Yahoo sports Olympics coverage, GoSports SwimBlog