The four-year cycle of Asian Games may look quite apart, but the world sports calendar has settled in such a way that two years after Olympics sports calendar becomes extremely heavy for sports-persons from the Asian and Commonwealth regions.
This year is no different—after Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, Asian Games are due to start in three days time in Jakarta-Palembang. Sandwiched between these two was football’s greatest show on earth—FIFA World Cup in Russia.
In 2002 the schedule was not quite different—FIFA World Cup in South Korea-Japan happened in June-July followed by Commonwealth Games in Manchester and finally the Asian Games in Busan—Korea relishing the financial usurp by hosting two of the world’s biggest sporting spectacles in a single calendar year.
Indian shooting just about was breaking free from the days when quota places were a norm, after morale boosting show at the 2001 World Championships in Finland, Commonwealth Championship in Bisley followed by the Commonwealth Games.
If the splendid performance of shooters put India on a high, there certainly was a hint provided by weightlifters in Manchester when two of them tested positive and the country was effectively suspended from international competitions. Indian delegation was no doubt extra-cautious, but still everything could not be controlled.
Sunita Rani episode
As if the weightlifters absence was not enough to raise suspicion, Sunita Rani provided reams of material for media to put India yet again on the chopping block. Sunita first won the women’s 1500m gold medal, but it was short lived ecstasy as she was tested positive for a performance boosting drug and was summarily stripped of her both medals. She had won the bronze medal in 5000m too.
That Sunita contested the procedures followed in urine sample collection and was backed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) before her medal was reinstated later on, it was an episode that blighted Indian sports no end.
Soon after winning the gold and after completing mixed-zone formalities, Sunita came for post-race interview and she kept drinking water and even took a pill from the team doctor before the mandatory dope test was to happen.
Those who were inside that room noticed something amiss after she sought time from dope control officials to give her urine sample and finally when she was taken to the dope control lab the chair she was sitting on was all wet and it wasn’t only sweat.
The AFI contested that Sunita as well as a few other women athletes were given medicines to control their mensural cycles, but the act of team doctor defied logic. In the protracted battle to get her medals, AFI was able to win the case on the procedural mistakes committed by the Seoul lab, but the fact remained that her sample collected in Busan was positive for a steroid.
Paes and Kapur shine
This episode apart, athletics won 7 of the 11 golds, including two by KM Beenamol, while the other four went to tennis, golf, kabaddi and snooker. Shiv Kapur’s individual gold in golf would be remembered as the Delhi boy played in pouring rain with raincoat to strike the medal that catapulted him onto the professional scene soon after. Then there was a gold by the of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi before their success at Grand Slams.
Indian gold medalists
1 Saraswati Saha (Athletics) 200m
1 KM Beenamol (Athletics) 400m
1 Sunita Rani (Athletics) 1500m
1 Neelam Singh (Athletics) Discus
1 Anju George (Athletics) Long jump
1 Manjeet Kaur, Soma Biswas, KM Beenamol, Jincy Philip (Athletics) 4x400m relay
1 Bahadur Singh (Athletics) Shot put
1 Men’s Kabaddi team
1 Shiv Kapur (Golf) Men’s individual
1 Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi (Tennis) Men’s Doubles
1 Yasin Merchant and Rafat Habib (Cue Sports) Snooker doubles