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The Great Indian Excuses resurface

By Biswajyoti Brahma
August 30, 2004 16:39 IST
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If Anjali Bhagwat had stiff muscles, K M Binu ran with the wrong spikes, Karnam Malleswari suffered a last-minute back problem, and Suma Shirur was done in by a mental block!

The exceptions were heptathlete J J Shobha, who braved excruciating pain to finish the event in eleventh place, and tennis stars Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.

There seems to be no end to the excuses given by Indian athletes for their shoddy performances at yet another Olympiad that ended last night in Athens.

Whether these were genuine reasons for their failure, only the athletes can tell. But one thing is for sure. They have got readymade excuses for every failure and it appears to come to them naturally.

The trend started soon after the beginning of the Games on August 13, when medal hope N Kunjarani Devi failed to finish on the podium in her weightlifting event and quickly put the blame on a tough field.

"I had come with a lot of hope," she said after finishing fourth. "Nobody comes here if he or she did not believe winning a medal. But the standards in the Olympics are very high."

Sydney bronze medallist Malleswari chose a safe way – sudden back pain – to answer a flurry of questions over her failure to complete even the first lift in the 63kg category.

"I had a back problem in the morning, but I thought I will still take a chance," Malleswari said. "But when I took the first lift, I felt an acute pain in the back and had to abandon it."

Anjali was the next star to follow, holding almost everything – stiff muscles, poor alignment, and missed shots – responsible for her failure to qualify for the final in her pet event, the 10m air rifle.

"I missed my first shot and thought my muscles were not really relaxed. I took the second shot in the same manner and missed again," she said after years of hard work went down the drain. "I suddenly realised that the alignment was not right. And I knew there itself that my chance was gone. At this level, it is very difficult to come back from there."

Shooter Suma Shirur, who went a step ahead of Anjali and made it to the final, was, however, two steps ahead in making an excuse. "I am a bit disappointed that I could not do so well in the final," she said. "I have the world record of 400 points and I could have done better. This is my first Olympics final. So probably there was some kind of a mental block."

Young and talented Binu set the track ablaze, clocking a national record in the 400m heats, but soon found fault with his spikes after finishing seventh in the semifinals. "The spikes gave me a problem," he said. "It was not suited to the new track laid down at the Olympic Stadium. It gave me a back pain after the heats and the pain did affect my performance."

Anju Bobby George was no doubt India's best bet for a medal in athletics, but as the long-jumper's hopes went up in smoke, she could not resist following her statemate. "It was quite windy out there and there was also some pollution," she said. "After the first jump I felt a slight uneasiness and giddiness. My performance just went down after that."

But the cherry must go to the Indian hockey team, which played marginally better than wooden-spoonists Egypt, but whose claims gave the impression that the side was robbed of gold.

"We have been losing because of poor umpiring," star striker Gagan Ajit Singh said after one of India's pool matches. "Both against Australia and New Zealand, we had almost drawn, but biased umpiring did us in."

But there were also some stars who were quite gracious in defeat. Top players Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes owned up responsibility for the loss in the tennis doubles bronze medal play-off. "It was my fault," Paes said. "These things happen in sport and we have to accept it."

"It is very disappointing," Mahesh added. "We had prepared very hard for the Olympics. Winning an Olympic medal was a dream... but now we will go back without anything."

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Biswajyoti Brahma
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