So the Samba party is over. Soon guests will go back and another Olympic Games will be consigned to history. From the Indian point of view, the Games will go down as, if not a flop, certainly a bad dream for the athletes and their fans.
Wrestling was particularly a tale that did not come up to the script written by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Indian Olympic Association (IOA), coaches, as well as the media. If WFI and coaches raised hopes, media splashed it all over with extra spice in it.
The plot got mired in controversy even before the athletes left Indian shores for the South American city. A bitter fight between Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav resulted in more legal tackles and holds in the courtroom, than the arena. And just when Narsingh was finally all set to enter the ring, came the WADA ruling pushing him out of the Games.
It was then that all eyes were set on Yogeshwar Dutt. But he was exposed in the first round itself and the Indian challenged ended.
It was sheer providence that Sakshi Malik was there to redeem Indian hopes. And she did it in great style winning an unexpected bronze medal. To say now that Sakshi was a contender would be face saving. Initially she had not even qualified, she just made it to Rio by default. It is a different matter that she saved total humiliation and will proudly carried the Indian tricolour in the closing ceremony march.
Who is to be blamed for wrestling fiasco? WFI for sure, as well as the Sports Ministry. WFI failed to settle the Narsingh-Sushil battle and handled Narasingh’s doping case badly.
Also to be blamed is National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) for clearing Narsingh for Rio. It is rumoured that NADA gave him a clean chit after pressure from the highest quarters. Some even whispered that it was Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that almost forced NADA to allow Narsingh to travel to Rio. At this stage these claims cannot be verified, they may not be verified ever. But one thing is sure, if NADA has done it on its own, there is something drastically wrong with the agency.
As regards Yogeshwar, WFI should clarify under what circumstances he travelled to Rio. He has been carrying a knee injury for past three years. Last year he was taken to Las Vegas for the World Championship, but he didn’t participate. If instead of Yogeshwar, Bajrang Punia was given a chance, maybe he would have returned a medallist.
Now WFI can take refuge in the fact there were several upsets in Rio wrestling. Olympic champion Jordan Burrows and triple World champion Adeline Gray of the USA – two sure shot gold medallists – were knocked out in the early rounds. In the coming days, I'm sure WFI will cite this as a case in point and try to wriggle out of blame game in India. But the saddest part is we may hear the same story in Tokyo four years down the line. Till then Sayonara.