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Asia

India looks to build on greatest Olympic medal haul

India finished the London Olympics on a high with its best ever showing in a single games with six medals. Although the country failed to get a gold, there are hopes of big improvements by the time of the next Olympics.

epa03340514 Bronze medal winner Saina Nehwal of India in Badminton Women`s Singles at the London 2012 Olympic Games Badminton competition, London, Britain, 04 August 2012. EPA/GEOFF CADDICK +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

London Olympische Spiele Saina Nehwal

Wrestler Sushil Kumar's momentous feat of winning back-to-back Olympic medals on the last day undeniably turned out to be the high point of the country's campaign.

Suffering from a stomach bug, the feisty grappler from Haryana braved his illness to put up a gallant fight against Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, falling eventually to come out second best.

Despite the lack of gold, it was a better show numerically than the one gold and two bronze medals that India won at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

"This is laudable. We can go gradually," said Indian Sports Minister Ajay Maken. "In 2020 at Rio we should aim for at least 25 medals and this is something which is achievable."

India's Gagan Narang shoots during qualifiers

Narang opened India's medal account in London

While shooting and wrestling led the charge with two medals each (one silver and one bronze in each of the disciplines), two other finishes on the podium were from badminton and women's boxing. India finished 55th on the medals table, 10 rungs higher than their count at Beijing.

Even the Indian parliament on Monday congratulated the athletes who won medals.

"These exceptional accomplishments will inspire upcoming sportspersons across the country. These sportspersons have made India proud by increasing the final medal tally to six which is a remarkable achievement," said Parliamentary Speaker Meira Kumar, amid thumping of desks by members of parliament.

The winners and losers

There were some predictable victories, some heartwarming surprises and some tragic disappointments for the 83-strong Indian contingent competing in 13 sporting disciplines.

Gagan Narang opened India's account with a well-deserved bronze medal in the 10-meter air rifle event. Meanwhile, shooter Abhinav Bindra and boxer Vijender Singh - both of whom brought glory to the nation at Beijing Olympics - dejectedly returned home empty-handed.

However, shooter Vijay Kumar did do India proud by clinching the silver medal. Meanwhile, badminton's Saina Nehwal, pictured top, and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt were triumphant with a bronze each in their kitty.

Woman boxer Mary Kom was feted as India's sporting hero after the mother-of-two won a bronze.

The boxer, who won five world titles in the 46-kilogram and 48-kilogram categories, had to move up a weight category to fight in London since her favored event was not part of the inaugural women's boxing competition in the Olympics.

India vs New Zealand in London

India's hockey crown has slipped in recent games

In hockey, where India long reigned supreme, the country's standards sunk to new depths. The team gave its worst performance, securing the last position among 12 teams - having failed to win a single match.

Will it get better?

"I think there are some positive takeaways from this edition of the Olympics. The wrestlers have done India proud and we have to work on our strong points. There will undoubtedly be a fillip to wrestling now," P.S.M. Chandran, a sports doctor, told DW.

US and China predictably emerged as the powerhouses by taking the first and second spots in the medals tally, while hosts Britain produced their best-ever show to take the third position.

For a nation of more than a billion, India's sporting potential had been the subject of fierce discussion ahead of the Olympics. There were some successes and some failures but it was a journey that at least saw India notch up a better performance than Beijing. There is some solace in that and, certainly as far as gold is concerned, things can only get better in future games.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Richard Connor