NEW DELHI: After the best-ever performance at the just-concluded Tokyo Olympics, India shall look at breaking into the top 10 at the earliest possible, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said on Monday as the House lauded medal winners and the gritty losers in close finishes.
In an unusually long speech, Naidu termed the Indian contingent’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics “the first moment of national awakening in sports”.
“The Tokyo Games turned out to be the best Olympic moment for our nation in the last 121 years of its Olympic journey,” he said.
“It took such a long time to script a ”We too can do it” moment, erasing the memories of desperation, despondency, dejection and disbelief, compounded by poor medal performance every four years,” Naidu added.
India finished at 47 in the Tokyo medal tally, far improved from 67 in the last Games in Rio.
“Four gold medals would have placed us at around 20 and another four among the top 10 in the medals tally,” he said. “It is to be much higher on the medals table given the feasibility as revealed from our Tokyo performances. Our mission shall be in the top 10 at the earliest possible.”
Members thumped their desks when the reference was read out.
Naidu said the Tokyo Olympics not just gave the highest-ever number of seven medals but also in terms of grit demonstrated in quite a few close finishes and a large number of athletes entering medal-winning rounds of the competition.
“Tokyo Olympics heralded resurgence, renaissance and national awakening in sports in our country by restoring the depleting confidence and self-esteem,” he said.
Of the 120 members in the Indian contingent for Tokyo, 55 contested in the quarter-finals and above, marking the highest-ever penetration into medal rounds of the competition.
For the first time, five of our athletes fought for gold and over 40 made it to the semi-finals.
“This is quite significant as it indicates the scope for substantially improving medal harvest in the near future as our sportspersons set their eyes on the Paris Olympics in 2024 with newfound confidence,” he said.
Naidu said Neeraj Chopra did the nation proud with his golden javelin throw, bringing down the curtains on “decades of despair and heralded a new era of confidence and hope.”
“His feat helps in healing the festering wound of recurrent despair and waning hope with every lost opportunity,” he said as he went on to praise all the other medal winners – Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Mirabai Chanu, Lovelin Borgohain, P V Sindhu and Bajrang Punia.
The men”s hockey team entered the semi-finals after 49 long years and fought valiantly to win a medal after 41 years. The women bravehearts, having made their Olympics debut in 1980, made it to the semi-final after 41 years and only in their third appearance.
“These stellar performances are harbingers of rejuvenation of interest in sports in general and in hockey in particular, in our country,” he said. “This august House is further happy to take note of the spectacular emergence of our women athletes in the international sports arena and their coming to the fore as medal winners.”
In the 2016 Rio games, both the medal winners were women. In Tokyo, three of the seven medal winners were women.
The golden record of our men’s hockey team till 1980 and rare good performances by some individual athletes notwithstanding, India had “come to lose self-esteem, confidence, morale and hope in the domain of sports further to poor performances in the Olympics arena over the years”, Naidu said.
“No nation can hold it”s head high in any domain with such lack of confidence and low self-esteem,” he said. “More so, when Olympic medals add to the global perception of emerging economies with the level of sports being an important element of soft power.”
In the 24 Olympic appearances till Rio Olympics in 2016, India could not win even a single medal in six, fetched a single medal each in 13, two medals in three Olympics, three in the Beijing Games in 2008 and a high of six medals in the London Games in 2012.
The first individual gold medal was secured only in the Beijing Games in 2008 while the first female medal winner in the Olympics came only in the Sydney Games in 2000. “Not even a single medal in track and field events for 120 years,” Naidu said.
“In addition, excepting some rare noteworthy performances, our nation has come to be used to early exits from competitions in various events in the Olympics and meek surrenders that made our people drop their heads in frustration and agony,” he added.