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    Rabble Rousing Random Ramblings by S Jagadish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

    August 13, 2008

    Michael Phelps 11, India 1

    While it is but natural that we're elated at Abhinav Bindra winning an Olympic gold medal, it has to be seen in perspective. Michael Phelps, by himself, has 11 golds - the highest of all time. He's targeting 3 more in this games.

    Do you realize the scary part? He is 23 years old. That is positively scary. It means he will (if he's still motivated) compete for another two Olympics at least! India has a total of 16 medals at the Olympics to date. Phelps has 13, and will draw level with India if he achieves his goal of 8 golds in the Beijing games! Think about it - one sportsman has as many medals as an entire country.

    Yet, I keep hearing this chant of "One billion people and we can't win a medal" (Ok, now it should change to "One billion people and we win just one gold medal"). That chant doesn't make sense. Not all one billion are good at, or can afford, elite sport.

    Elite sport is such that in a nation of 1 billion people, at most 100 of them would qualify as world-class sportspersons. The fact is that of those 100 sportspersons, only between 5 and 10 are truly champion material. Elite sport most definitely isn't something where the number of people taking up sport will directly result in better quality performances.

    Think about it. If the IOA aims to ensure that India wins 2 gold medals at the 2012 Olympics in London, are they better off targetting 1 billion people and asking all of them to jog, exercise & stay fit? Of course they're not going to do that! It is a different matter though that the IOA will plan for 2012 in 2010.

    Yes, awareness amongst the general public does raise the profile of the sport, which is the primary reason for the success of cricket. India's cricketers haven't exactly been world #1 either. Wins in multi-nation tournaments and overseas have been sporadic and infuriatingly in contrast to the players' ability. But where cricket scores is the fact that the BCCI was able to successfully rope in enough sponsors for tours & tournaments, ensure good quality coverage of these games and slowly raise the profile of the game. They did get lucky too, with some brilliant players simultaneously raising their game to great heights.

    Abhinav's achievement needs to be used as a motivating tool for the top 100 sportspersons. I've watched some of the interviews he has given to the news channels and he seems so bloody calm and composed. Based on what he says, he prepares very well and does his job on the day, without bothering about the end result, since that's not something he can control. Under that cool & calm exterior is obviously someone who was seething at not doing well in two successive Olympics. But, he didn't let the frustration get to him. That's why he's the man of the moment.

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