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


Hakim said...

It was great to read your thoughts. Sharda Ugra from India Today also wrote an article on similar lines:

There needs to be a lot more sensitivity and a holistic approach deployed while reporting sports.

I hope that sports reporting will get better in the days to come.

Hakim said...

Feel free to check my blog for more info on Indian swimming.

Nanda said...

Thanks for the comments. The India today article you have pointed out is right on and reflects the thoughts exactly on why I sat down to write this blog. I think the problem with DD as well as the other misdirected articles is that it was given by non sports persons who were unable to evaluate the performance in the proper perspective.

Sujatha said...

Quite agree with your comments. Would just like to add that this type of insensitivity from the media can only add to the bag of woes that Indian coaches already face ...!! More encouragement from all quarters will boost the morale of the coaches which in turn will result in better all round performance from our sportspersons!

Anirban said...

Agree with you. Since genuine patronage from SAI/IOA has always been so biased, all kudos should go to the immense efforts put in by the athletes. As in everything else, each one of the country's sports associations are personal fiefdom of some politicians - Kalmadi (Olympics), Dasmunshi (Footbal), Bindra (Hockey), ...

I also found the performance of the Indian Rowing team very good, even though they could not make it to the Semis.

Nanda said...

Small update. I originally sat down to write this blog as a base research on Indias swimming performance to refute editorial comments in the Bengaluru pages magazine. I then wrote them the following snippet as letters to editor and it got published as a highlighted letter in the Sept 16-30th issue. Unfortunately there is no online version to link here.

I was very disappointed to read your comment on Bangalore Olympians in your Editors Note, Sept 1-15th issue which said "Bangalore's Olympians might have performed below par at Beijing ... ". This coming after an excellent article showcasing and encouraging the athletes in the Aug 1-15th issue shows that you have followed others in falling for the media frenzy to honour and idolize only those winning the medals. Please note that the swimmers Khade, Poncha and Sejwal bettered their personal best timings in 3 events and came close in the others. They were poised and competed equally with the worlds best and deserve our utmost appreciation for taking Indian swimming to its highest level. Some athletes may have faltered on the Olympic stage but to club everybody into the bucket of "performance below par" is not justified and shows lack of objectivity or knowledge of the concerned sport. These kind of flippant comments and reporting by media not only demoralizes the participating athletes but also dampens the motivation of other aspiring athletes. I hope this magazine at least avoids such pitfalls in the future and reports sensitively on the achievements of our dedicated sports persons.