India has sent its largest ever contingent to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics in the hopes of bringing back more medals as compared to the previous Olympics. There have been 120 athletes who have adorned the colours of India and are competing in 18 sports with the aim of winning a medal for the country. The Indian athletes are competing in shooting, wrestling, weightlifting, hockey, boxing, archery, badminton, athletics, equestrian, judo, rowing, gymnastics, sailing, swimming, fencing, golf, lawn tennis and table tennis.
After the subdued performance in the Rio Olympics where India managed to win only two medals – shuttler PV Sindhu had won a silver medal and wrestler Sakshi Malik had won a bronze medal – it was clear that drastic steps had to be taken to ensure better performance at the Olympics. Thus, the government successfully put together various initiatives like the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), Khelo India and Fit India for providing better infrastructure and support to athletes. The TOPS scheme has emphasised the importance of mental training and athletes such as Manu Bhaker and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa have been able to gain the services of a sports psychologist. Manu Bhaker stated that shooting requires vigorous mental strength and stability to perform flawlessly and a sports psychologist will help with that.
The Olympic-bound Indian women’s hockey team have also been taking part in mental training workshops under the Target Olympic Podium initiative which is organised by the Sports Authority of India. They partake in visualisation activities, build team cohesion, and practice focusing on the present moment rather than thinking about a past result or the outcome of the match.
The Olympic Gold Quest founded by Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone strives to complement the efforts of the Indian government and provide a holistic approach to the athletes. They have been providing mental training facilities to India’s greatest female archer, Deepika Kumari. After disappointing performances at the London and Rio Olympics, she has been working on her mental health and learning how to control her thoughts. She feels it has enhanced her mental strength.
Former Indian cricket captain and current BCCI chairman, Sourav Ganguly also stated that mental toughness would be one of the key factors in differentiating who wins the medal at the Olympics.
The overall efforts of the athletes and government have seemed to work its magic, for the first time in history, four sailors have qualified for the Olympics with Nethra Kumanan being the first Indian women sailor to qualify for the Olympics. In addition, Fouaad Mirza is the first Indian equestrian to win a berth at the Olympics since 2000.
In a nation that is largely obsessed with cricket, it is inspiring to see men and women exploring different games with the hopes of winning a medal for the country. Mirabai Chanu has done it. Now wishing the remaining athletes the very best.
Photo Courtesy – AFP.