Here, we take a look at Indian athletes, who left the medal-starved nation heartbroken at Olympics:
Fourth place finishes at the Olympic Games could be really painful for the athletes and teams. Years of hard work and a medal missed by a whisker.
India is no stranger to such episodes at the Olympic Games.
While moments of glory have been few and far between, on some occasions, India’s best athletes have come really close to the Olympic glory but missed out on bronze medals.
Here, we take a look at Indian athletes and teams, who tried really hard for the medal but didn’t quite achieve it.
Milkha Singh at Rome Olympics, 1960
Track legend Milkha Singh, who recently passed away after a prolonged battle against COVID-19 , became the first-ever Indian athlete to reach the final of a track and field event at Games.
Expectations were aplenty from Milkha, the reigning Asian Games champion, having breezed through the heats.
He started off with a bang, looking certain for a medal a little past the halfway mark. However, he gradually slowed down, allowing Otis David, Carl Kaufmann, and Malcolm Spence to get past him.
Eventually, Milkha misjudged the race and was pushed to the fourth spot at the finish, behind Spence by merely 1/10th of a second. The result was decided by a photo finish.
While Milkha, four-time Asian Games gold medallist and 1958 Commonwealth Games champion, did set a national record in the race, India’s search for an elusive track and field medal continued.
PT Usha at 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
After Milkha Singh’s loss in the 1960 Olympics, no one could have imagined that somebody would come that close to winning an Olympic medal. And then came PT Usha, who matched Cristieana Cojocaru stride for stride, but the Romanian made that decisive head dip in a photo finish to finish third.
To add salt to India’s wounds, the margin of defeat was heartwrenching – Usha missed the 400-metre hurdles bronze by 1/100th of a second, which is the closest-ever miss for an Indian athlete in any competition.
While it was yet another heartbreak for India, it was among the biggest moments in the career of Usha, who was merely 20 at that time, and went on to establish herself as the country’s most celebrated track and field athlete of her generation.
Joydeep Karmakar at 2012 London Olympics
Karmakar had garnered plenty of attention from the media following his brilliant performances in the national trials. In the 50-metre rifle prone final at the London Olympics, Karmakar, who shot an overall score of 699.1, missed out on the bronze after falling behind Slovenia’s Rajmond Debevec by 1.9 points.
Karmakar shot fairly well, climbing from No 7 in the qualification round to No 4, but he failed to dislodge the top three.
Belarusian shooter Sergei Martynov bagged the gold, scoring 705.5 and winning by 4.2 points, while the silver was won by Belgium’s Lionel Cox, who pipped Debevec by 0.2 points.
From India’s perspective, however, not all was lost as Vijay Kumar won silver in the 25-metre rapid fire pistol the same day.
Abhinav Bindra at 2016 Rio Olympics
It was in 2008 that shooter Abhinav Bindra scripted history by bagging the gold in the 10m air rifle event, becoming India’s only individual Olympic gold winner in the sport.
Eight years later, in his fifth and final Olympics, he missed out on a bronze by a whisker, losing the shoot-off against Ukrainian Serhiy Kulish after both were tied for third place at 163.8 points after 16 shots.
“I think I did my best but a medal was not to be. It was a tough field. Somebody had to finish fourth and I did. Well I think that’s the way it is. I gave it all. It was good day a hard day. Could have been better with a medal,” Bindra said after his loss.
Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna at 2016 Rio Olympics
Both Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna had suffered defeats in the women’s and men’s singles respectively.
But there were still expectations from them as a pair since they made the mixed-doubles semi-finals with two consecutive wins. Also, there were only 16 teams in the category and India were just a win away from a medal.
However, when it mattered the most, the pair seemed out of sorts and suffered a 1-6, 6-7 loss to the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek in the bronze medal match that lasted one hour and 13 minutes.
Dipa Karmakar at 2016 Rio Olympics
India’s Dipa Karmakar had already created history by becoming the first woman gymnast from the nation to compete at the Olympics. Besides, she was also the first Indian gymnast to take part in Games in 52 years.
While it was a monumental achievement that she produced the best-ever performance by an Indian, the entire nation was dejected as she came really close to winning a medal.
The 27-year-old from Tripura finished fourth with a score of 15.066 points behind Giulia Steingruber (15.216) of Switzerland, falling short by 0.150 points.
Indian women’s hockey team at 2020 Tokyo Games
The latest one to feature in the list is the Indian women’s hockey team.
The men’s hockey team managed to get the bronze but the women’s team fell agonisingly short.
In the bronze medal match against Great Britain, Rani Rampal and Co had taken a 3-2 lead at one point but Britain scored twice to clinch the medal. Two narrow defeats – 1-2 in the semi-final against Argentina and 3-4 in the bronze medal match – resulted in a fourth place finish for India.
Nevertheless, it has been a great run and a significant moment for women’s hockey. From finishing last in Rio 2016 to a fourth spot in Tokyo, Indian women’s hockey team made millions to take notice of them and appreciate their efforts.