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India's London Olympics heroes... Where are they now?

August 01, 2016 09:11 IST

These athletes made India proud four years ago.

The turn of the century has seen a marked improvement in performance by Indian athletes at the Olympics.

From a bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (Karnam Malleswari, Weightlifting, Women's 69 kg) and a solitary silver medal at the Athens Olympics from shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathod in 2004, to a 3-medal haul at Beijing in 2008 (Abhinav Bindra -- 1 gold; wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxer Vijender Singh -- 2 bronze), Indian athletes doubled their tally at the London Games.

With six medals, Indian athletes brought in its largest haul ever at an Olympics.

So, where are those record-creating Indian athletes now? Do they have another shot at glory in Rio? Rediff.com's Norma Godinho finds out.

Sushil Kumar, Wrestling

Indian wrestler Sushil Kumar

IMAGE: Sushil Kumar. Photograph: Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Sushil Kumar missed an Olympic gold in London by a whisker, but etched his name in India's sporting history as the first Indian athlete to win medals in successive Olympics.

The Indian grappler put up a superb show to reach the final, but was outclassed by Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu 3-1 in the gold medal bout in the 66kg class.

Four years down the line, the story of this two-time Olympian has gone off track.

Sushil opted out of the World Championships in Las Vegas because of injury. Narsingh Yadav secured the Olympic quota place for India in 2015 at the World Championship after winning a bronze medal.

Since then, Narsingh has staked his claim for the Olympic berth and the Wrestling Federation of India had been steadfast in its stand to send the Mumbai grappler to Rio.

Going by the norms in WFI guidelines, the quota belongs to the country and not to an individual wrestler, and former world champion Sushil pointed out that there should be a trial in the 74 kg category to decide who would go to Rio.

The 33 year old moved the Delhi high court seeking directions to the WFI to hold a trial bout.

Sushil's demand for a trial were rejected by the WFI and the Delhi high court, but there is a twist in this tale.

On Sunday, July 24, National Anti-Doping Agency Director General Navin Agarwal stated that NADA found two samples taken from Narsingh positive for banned substances, rendering his chances for Rio doubtful.

Narsingh, who has received WFI's backing after the controversy, has termed it a conspiracy.

Even if Narsingh is ruled out of the Rio reckoning, the WFI has named Praveen Rana as his replacement, nixing Sushil's Olympic chances.

Mary Kom, Boxing

Mary Kom at the medal ceremony at the London Olympics 2012

IMAGE: Mary Kom at the medal ceremony at the London Olympics. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

M C Mary Kom became the first Indian woman boxer to win an individual Olympic medal when she clinched the bronze at the London Games.

The Manipuri boxer, who lost in the quarter-finals to eventual gold medalist, Great Britain's Nicola Adams, said one part of her dream was realised by competing in the Olympics and winning the bronze medal, but she would have been happier had she won gold.

Over the last four years, two surgeries and another child cast a shadow on her return to the ring.

The 33-year-old five-time world champion returned to competitive boxing in late 2014, but did not make the cut for Rio after two qualifiers.

Despite her absence in Rio, Mary made it clear to Rediff.com that retirement is not on her mind and she hopes to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Vijay Kumar, Shooting

Shooter Vijay Kumar

IMAGE: Shooter Vijay Kumar. Photograph: Harish Kotian/Rediff.com

Vijay Kumar clinched silver in the men's 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event in London.

He beat back a strong challenge from World champion Alexei Klimov of Russia, the Chinese duo of Ding Feng and Zhang Jian, and Germany's Christian Reitz in the 40-shot final to finish runner-up in a thrilling final, behind Cuba's Leuris Pupo, who shot his way to the gold with a World record-equalling score of 34.

The 26-year-old army subedar from Himachal Pradesh found the target 30 times in 40 attempts in the series, comprising eight rounds of five shots each.

But we won't be seeing this class shooter in Rio.

Vijay's hopes of competing in the Games ended at the Asia Olympic qualifying competition in New Delhi in January.

In the men's 25m rapid fire pistol event, Vijay qualified for the final with a top score of 576. He had to beat Qatari Oleg Engachev and one out of two Japanese shooters in the final to book a Rio berth. Vijay became the second shooter to be eliminated, finishing fifth in the six-men final.

Gagan Narang, Shooting

Gagan Narang

IMAGE: Gagan Narang. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Gagan Narang was dubbed the 'powerhouse' of Indian shooting by the Nation Rifle Association of India a day after he earned the country its third Rio Olympics place in the sport with a bronze medal at the ISSF World Cup in Fort Benning, USA.

Narang, bronze medalist in the 10m Rifle event in London, won bronze in the 50m Rifle Prone Event last May, after shooting 185.8 overall to secure third place behind gold medalist American Michael McPhail (208.8 points) and Norwegian Ole Kristian Bryhn (206.3).

Hoping to upset McPhail and Bryhn in Rio, Narang has added a new gun to his arsenal, a Walther rifle with a lighter trigger.

Saina Nehwal, Badminton

Saina Nehwal kisses her medal at the London Olympics

IMAGE: Saina Nehwal kisses her medal at the London Games medal ceremony. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Saina earned India its first Olympic medal in badminton when she won the bronze at the Wembley Arena in London.

She was adjudged the winner after a knee injury forced the World No 2 Xin Wang of China to forfeit her bronze medal play-off match.

It was probably not the ideal way to 'win' a medal on the biggest sporting stage, but Saina has gone from strength to strength thereafter.

She qualified for the Rio Games, her 3rd Olympic appearance, after meeting the criteria (ranking) to claim a berth.

In the four years since London, Saina became the World No 1, reached the World Badminton Championship and All England finals last year.

After a lull, failing to reach a World Superseries final since last November and suffering an Achilles' tendon injury last year -- that saw her miss the South Asian Games, the Indian Grand Prix and the (badminton) Asian team championship -- Saina won the Australian Open Superseries in June.

Her second Australian Open title saw her beat World champions Ratchanok Intanon (2013) and Wang Yihan (2011) before overpowering China's Sun Yu in the final in Sydney.

Yogeshwar Dutt, Wrestling

Yogeshwar Dutt celebrates after beating Ri Jong Myong to win bronze at the Rio Olympics

IMAGE: Yogeshwar Dutt celebrates beating Ri Jong Myong to win the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Photograph: Paul Sancya

Yogeshwar Dutt provided a late boost to India's medal collection at the 30th Olympic Games in London by claiming a memorable bronze in the men's freestyle 60 kg category, making him the second Indian to achieve the feat.

Yogeshwar promised Rediff.com that he would convert his bronze to gold in Rio.

By making the final of the men's 65kg freestyle event at the Asian Olympic qualification in Astana, Kazakhstan, on March 19, the 33 year old from Sonepat qualified for the Games.

En route to the final, Yogeshwar put up a dominating show, winning all three bouts.

Norma Godinho / Rediff.com