India had sent the biggest ever contingent (118 to be precise) to the Rio Olympics and one hoped the medal tally too would surge in proportion. However, the athletes could not rise to the occasion and all except two returned empty handed, much to the disappointment of over a billion people back home. Only PV Sindhu – silver medal in women’s badminton singles – and Sakshi Malik in 58 kg freestyle category of women wrestling – could manage a medal at the mega event. Here ISN brings before you the biggest Indian upsets at 2016 Rio Olympics:
She was one of India’s best bets in Rio Olympics. Having won a bronze medal in London and being consistent in her performance – she even ranked No.1 for a brief period in 2015 – Saina Nehwal carried the hopes and expectations of millions of countrymen at the mega event. However, India was in for a shock as in one of the biggest upsets for the Indian Olympic contingent, Saina crashed out of the women’s singles event after suffering a defeat against Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in her second Group G match. The world no. 5 lost 18-21 19-21 to World No. 61 Maria in a match that lasted 39 minutes. Saina cited an inflammation in her right knee as the reason which hampered her on-court movement. “I had a knee pain and could not give my best. It was heavily strapped, and I tried my best. My movements were not smooth and were painful. It’s heartbreaking loss. I also feel very bad about it,” Saina said after the loss.
Like Saina Nehwal, Jitu Rai, too, had come in for the mega event carrying the burden of performing for the nation, as his exemplary form in the last two years prior to the Olympics gave hopes to a billion of Indians of a medal from the shooting contingent, which had been delivering the same since 2004 Athens Olympics. Jitu even raised hopes by qualifying for the finals of 10m Air Pistol two days prior to his pet 50m Pistol event. However, destiny had something else in store for the shooter as finished 12th in qualifying round of his pet event. "I'm ashamed. I let you and entire country down. People had a lot of expectations from me. My friends, federation and Army have funded me and trained me to the best. Even I was so sure about my chances here. I can't tell you how much I am disappointed today,” said Jitu after he failed to qualify for the final.
Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna
Tennis mixed doubles was one of India's best bet for a medal as it featured only 16 teams and with the kind of reputation Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna carry in this format, it was within the reach of the Indians. The Indian pair even raised the expectation of Indian fans all over as they won two consecutive matches to reach the semi-final. However, India's tennis campaign at the Rio Olympic Games ended in dejection as Sania and Rohan first lost their semi-final match 6-2 2-6 3-10 to Americans Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram and later were outclassed 1-6 6-7 by the Czech team of Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradceka in the bronze medal play-off. “We both didn’t do what we do best probably. We did have chances. The second set was fine. We could have won that multiple times but were not able to convert it,” said Sania after the loss.
Heena Sidhu, too, had come into the mega event with a reputation to defend as she had been performing consistently at the international stage. However, the shooter failed to impress as she finished a distant 20th in the 25m pistol event for women. Heena managed to score a total of 576 after the Precision and Rapid stages at the Olympic Shooting centre, which was nowhere close to earn a berth for the finals. Earlier, Heena missed out of the race to the women's 10 metres Air Pistol finals event after finishing 14th in the qualifications. “I will never give up. The hope will be there to be there in 2020, 2024, 2028. The hope, determination will always be there. I will give my 100 per cent,” Heena said after her loss in the 25m pistol event.
She has won the big events, been No 1, beaten other No 1s and even hit world record scores. But when it comes to Olympics, Deepika Kumari is still an enigma – hitting form on one day and going wayward the very next day. This was her story in Rio. Deepika Kumari lost in the pre-quarterfinal as she choked at crucial junctures. Deepika was blanked 0-6 by World No.2 Tan Ya-Ting of Chinese Taipei. She failed to raise her game when it mattered the most, losing 27-28, 26-29, 27-30 in a lop-sided contest. Deepika had entered the pre-quarterfinals beating Italian archer Sartori Guandalina in the 1/16 Elimination Round. After losing the first set 24-27, Deepika struck form and dominated the next three sets to pocket them 29-28, 28-26 and 28-27. Earlier, India's women archery team of Deepika Kumari, Laxmirani Majhi and Bombayla Devi, failed to make it to the semi-finals of the team event at the Rio Olympics. They lost 23-25 in the shootout against Russia.
He had started India’s medal haul in London Olympics by winning the bronze medal in the Men's 10 m Air Rifle Event. A lot was expected from him at Rio but the Hyderabad-based shooter failed to impress, both, in the Men's 10 m Air Rifle and the 50m Rifle Prone events. In 10m air rifle, Gagan squandered a brilliant start to exit the event. Gagan Narang finished 23rd with a final score of 621.7. Later in the mega event, Gagan even failed to qualify for the 50m Rifle Prone event. He finished at 13th spot with a total score of 623.1. It was disappointing for Narang and the Indian shooting contingent as he was placed as high as 4th at one stage. However, he let the advantage go by shooting his poorest in the final sixth and final series, which yielded him his lowest score of 102.4. Narang's series break-up stood at 104.7, 104.4, 104.6, 103.0, 104.0, 102.4. “This was the event I was preparing for and I had a good feeling about it. I fought very hard till the end and was in it till the 55th shot – the last four shots put me out of the final. I gave my best,” Narang said after he finished 13th in 50m Rifle Prone event.
India’s dismal performance in the men’s wrestling continued with the exit of Yogeshwar Dutt who lost 0-3 in the qualifying round of the 65kg wrestling freestyle event to Mongolia's Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran at the Rio Olympics on the last day of the event. The London Olympic bronze-medalist's only hope of making it to the medal rounds lay in his Mongolian opponent reaching the gold medal round. If Mandakhnaran could have made the final, Yogeshwar would have to fight two repechage rounds before entering the bronze medal playoff. However, Mandakhnaran lost 0-6 to Ramonov of Russia in the quarters. It ended Yogeshwar’s hopes of repechage. Earlier, Sandeep Tomar (57kg freestyle), Ravinder Khatri (85kg Greco-Roman) and Hardeep Singh (98kg Greco-Roman) were all eliminated early.