India's Abhinav Bindra won the first individual gold medal for my country in 61 years in the Men's 10m Air Rifle event at Beijing Olympics. It is one of those moments when you feel instinctively ecstatic; and in a short while start to ponder about the million questions yet to be answered. Lets give it to the man, he has really defeated multiple odds. He really deserves all accolades that comes his way - Congrats Abhinav. You really have earned the love and applause of the billion and more Indians world wide.
You have also earned instant overreaction from the Indian Media, Politicians and general public that will come your way in the next few days! Having lived in India for the best part of 25 years, I can visualize the mindless euphoria that would follow. And everyone would forget the fact that this gold medal took 61 years coming and was not a result of a system but the sheer brilliance of an individual!
No one gave the Indian athletes any chance of winning medals, let alone a Gold, in the Olympics. To quote Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympics Association, India should not "expect too many medals in China." The IOA and SAI are hardly worthy of supporting, let alone creating, world class athletes. There have been multiple complaints of shabby politics, favoritism and all sorts of discrimination against athletes. The latest was when Indian weightlifter Monica Devi apparently failed a drugs test and was pulled out literally hours before boarding a flight to Beijing, only to clear the same test when it was too late to play in the event. A CBI probe is looming at the biggest sports bodies of India. The national hockey team, the only Olympic gold winner for India till Abhinav, did not even qualify to Olympics this time. There has been literally no improvement in grass root level development of games. There seems to be no clear planning or execution in improving sports in India. Very often, athletes leave India and travel to other nations to train before key events - that act explains the state of the facilities. The lesser we talk about the individual sports bodies, the better.
The point I am trying to make is that this is hardly India's Gold medal. This is simply an Indian's Gold medal. In 61 years of Independence, we have not made significant strides in our quest for sports supremacy. And the people in the important positions certainly have their priorities wrong. Everyone who can talk will talk about Abhinav. He will receive a million accolades and pose with every important person in India who wants to bask in his glory. But soon, he will be forgotten and the nation will move on to the next political scandal or the biggest summer blockbuster. Including the people who could use this moment and this person to spur the imagination of a country and take steps towards creating the necessary infrastructure and providing fair opportunities to create more gold medal winners. They will claim their share in Abhinav's success, consider their job done and move on.
I believe that Abhinav has earned everything that will come his way in the next few months and perhaps many more. In a system that does not promise any podium finishers, he managed to stand on top of the podium and gave us Indians on of those rare moments of listening to our national anthem at the Olympics. I congratulate and salute him for his achievement.