No lustre in Indian campaign
One bronze medal doesn't go far among a billion people, as Indians will certainly make clear to their 70-strong Sydney Olympic team.
India picked up their bronze in a historic performance in weightlifting by two times world champion Karnam Malleswari, the first Olympic medal ever won by an Indian woman.
But their greatest hopes -- doubles tennis champions Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi and the men's hockey team -- didn't come close to a medal, let alone a gold.
"I don't think we've got the infrastructure to keep building champions like other countries do," Bhupathi said.
"Countries with much smaller populations, like Croatia, or Germany, etc, they've got the right coaches, the right training, they've got teams travelling with sports psychologists," he said. "That's all just something Indians haven't ventured into yet."
India have won a total of eight golds, all in hockey, including six in a row from 1928 to 1956. They have also picked up a silver and five bronzes since they began competing in 1928.
Their gold haul ranks with that of Ethiopia, Ireland and North Korea, but is easily overshadowed by tiny but successful Olympics nations such as Cuba with a total 44 golds, much less giants like the United States with more than 800.
India were not going to compete with the developed nations who pump many millions of dollars into sport, but they were certainly expected to deliver more than they did.
"There was talk of five medals: hockey, tennis, shooting, boxing and weightlifting. Barring a miracle or two in the track event, the contingent will come home with one," the Indian Express newspaper sniffed last week.
Under the banner headline "Also-ran India's medal hopes practically over", the Times of India newspaper lamented: "In real terms, what all this means is just one bronze for a billion Indians."
Paes, who ended a 16-year Indian medal drought with a men's singles bronze in Atlanta in 1996, had hoped to lead the charge in Sydney.
He and Bhupathi, who in 1999 won two of the four major doubles titles, should have been major medal contenders but for a string of injuries and a damaging partnership split during 2000.
Their subsequent rankings drop meant they were up in the second round against their arch-rivals, hometown favourites Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge. Without the match practice, they were unable to halt the "Woodies", who eventually won silver.
That left the country's shooters, boxer Gurcharan Singh and the men's hockey, but none could come up with the goods.
Singh came closest, losing his quarter-final bout on a countback.
India obviously could have done better over the years if cricket, their great passion, counted as an Olympic sport.
It is there, says Bhupathi, that most of the money and attention goes, possibly at the expense of Olympic medals.
"Cricket is our number one sport and it's the one that parents actually look to put their children into," he said. "There is infrastructure, there's a lot of money there, and there's a lot of limelight there," he said.
He warned that there was no quick route to Olympic success even if a similar effort went into other sports.
"Once we get that infrastructure going, it's going to take 10 to fifteen years to start building champions," he said.
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