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They won Olympic medals for India... well, almost!

Last updated on: July 20, 2012 00:51 IST

Milkha Singh missed bronze by 1/10th of a second



India has just 20 medals to show from the Olympics in 112 years. There were some athletes who came close to winning that elusive medal, but missed out in the final analysis. Bikash Mohapatra looks back on those disappointments.

All the hype and expectations notwithstanding, India's record at the Olympics -- the biggest sporting event in the world -- can be summed up in a word: dismal!

For a country that's home to 1.3 billion people and boasts of a huge 'young' population, and takes pride in its demographic dividend, the medal yield at the quadrennial event is not something to be proud of.

A return of 20 medals in a period of 112 years is, bluntly put, a shame!

However, the focus here is not on the Indian failure in general (it is obvious in any case), but the failure of a few athletes, in particular. Athletes who came close to winning that elusive medal, but missed out in the final analysis.

Their effort, nonetheless, is laudable. takes a look at a few such athletes even as the whole country hopes for better returns from the upcoming London Games.

Milkha Singh

Milkha Singh's was a decorated career.

The 'Flying Singh', as he is referred to, won gold at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff -- the first Indian to do so -- and also at the Asian Games in 1958 (Tokyo) and 1962 (Teheran). Besides, he represented India in three Olympics.

While his effort at the Melbourne Games was forgettable, largely due to inexperience, it was at Rome four years later that he gave a good account of himself.

Milkha finished second in both the heats, in the 400 meters, ahead of the final while improving his timing on every occasion. In fact, in the second heat he was only behind eventual silver medalist German Carl Kaufmann.

However, in the final he missed out on a medal by a whisker. South African Malcolm Spence pipped Milkha by 1/10th of a second for the bronze even as American Otis Davis comfortably won the gold.

His glorious career inspired Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to make a biopic.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh


GS Randhawa finished fifth in Tokyo

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Gurbachan Singh Randhawa

Four years following Milkha Singh's failure to win a medal, it was the turn of Gurbachan Singh Randhawa to miss out.

Randhawa, who started out as a decathlete -- winning gold in the event at the 1962 Asiad -- was forced to switch to the 110 meters hurdles following a shoulder injury.

At Tokyo, he finished second to eventual bronze medalist Anatoly Mikhailov of the erstwhile Soviet Union in the semi-finals, having qualified for the same as the fastest loser. In the final, though, he could manage only a fifth-place finish.

Randhawa's timing of 14.07 secs was well behind the winner's -- American Hayes Jones -- 13.67 secs.

However, it was a commendable effort, nonetheless.

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Yohannan disappointed in the Montreal Games

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TC Yohannan

For the record, TC Yohannan held the national long jump record for over three decades.

The athlete from Kerala won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Teheran (Iran) in 1974 with a jump of 8.07 metres. It was a new Asian record -- one he held on to for 23 years -- and ensured Yohannan his place in the pantheon of elite Indian athletes.

Two years later, he represented India at the Montreal Games. Hopes were palpably high; Yohannan was expected to be among the medals.

The final result of the long jump discipline at the event read thus: Gold – Arnie Robinson, Silver – Randy Williams, Bronze – Frank Wartenberg. Missing from the list was the name that the whole of India wanted to see.

Wartenburg's bronze winning effort measured 8.02 meters, well below Yohannan's Asian mark. The latter, however, cleared only 7.67 meters on the occasion.

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Usha missed bronze by a whisker

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PT Usha

Probably the biggest Indian disappointment in recent memory, PT Usha missed out on the 400m hurdles bronze medal at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 by 1/100th of a second.

Earlier, Usha won the semi-finals and became the first Indian woman -- and fifth Indian overall -- to reach the final of an Olympic event. Moroccan Nawal El Moutawakel won the gold. American Judi Brown the silver.

Cristieana Cojocaru. Trivia buffs do remember this name. The Romanian clocked 55.41 secs to pip Usha to the bronze, the Indian's timing being 55.42 secs.

Could it get any closer?

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Limba Ram was a big let down in Barcelona

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Limba Ram

Limba Ram represented India in three Olympics. However, it was in the 1992 edition at Barcelona that he was among the favourites.

In the preceding Asian Championships in Beijing, the archer equalled the world record of Japan's Takayoshi Matsushita in the 30 meters segment, thereby raising hopes of an Olympic medal.

At Barcelona, Limba managed to score 336 points -- out of a possible 360 -- in the 70 meter segment, a newly-introduced category at the Olympics.

However, it was not enough to ensure him a medal. For the record, Limba missed out on the bronze by a point.

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