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Olympia 2021 || Gold for India? Gold for India!

What kind of flag is that? Saffron-colored above, white in the middle, green below, a blue chakra in the middle? Athletics spectators have already got used to many flags that the winners throw at them for the lap of honor. The black-green-yellow of Jamaica, the black-red-green of Kenya. But this flag that a young man is carrying through the stadium has not yet been seen there. Is it India ? Yes india!

Neeraj Chopra won gold in javelin throwing for his country. 87.58 meters in the first attempt. "It feels amazing," said Chopra. The Prime Minister called directly after the competition. It was a historic moment for India. His last medal in athletics dates back to 1900, well before independence, gold has never existed. In general, India was only able to win ten gold medals at all of the Olympic Games . Eight of these went to the men's hockey team, which dominated the sport until the early 1980s. The other two were won by Abhinav Bindra in 2008 in a 10-meter air pistol. And now Chopra with his spear.

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The success of the 23-year-old farmer's son from the state of Haryana makes India's appearance this year the best of an Indian team at the Olympic Games. But with three bronze medals, two silver and one gold, the second largest country in the world with just under 1.4 billion inhabitants is still far behind in the medal table. Five years ago in Rio de Janeiro there were only two medals. India has won almost nothing at the Olympics so far. But Chopra's success could be a sign that this will soon change.

Only a few are active in sports

"Of course, India has done extremely poorly at the Olympics for a country of its size," says Ronojoy Sen. He has written a book on the history of sport in India. For him, the reasons are clear: poverty, poor nutrition, an inadequate health system and hardly any access to sports facilities. Anyone who has to live on less than two US dollars a day, which applies to two-thirds of the population in India, has other concerns than striving for Olympic excellence. Few Indians are physically active because you have to be able to afford free time.

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Girls from poorer rural families are also expected to do housework and marry early. Rani Rampal, the captain of the Indian women's hockey team, reported how her parents were initially against the sport. Because she had to wear short skirts instead of feeding the family. Her father was a cart puller, her mother a housemaid. Trainers initially rejected Rani Rampal because she was too weak. She has since bought a house for her parents. In Tokyo she finished fourth with her team.

And what about the rich elites who have many sports facilities in their isolated residential areas? "They prefer a career on the job market," says Sen. Profitum is rarely the focus. In addition, India has the problem that the country's most popular sport is not Olympic. "Most of the money and most of the glamor go into cricket," says Sen. Cricket is therefore the first choice for children and young people. Also for those who want to escape poverty through sport. There isn't much left for the other sports.

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And because there is no organized system of amateur clubs, talent cannot be discovered. There is also no structure like the one in the USA, in which budding athletes are supported by scholarships. The state or private companies step in for this. You sponsor and employ athletes. The javelin thrower Chopra is an officer in the Indian army. Ronoroy Sen says, "I don't think any other country has a system where so many companies give athletes jobs and stability from a young age to retirement."

Something is moving in India. 

Something is changing. Slowly but surely

After the medal yield from Rio, which was narrow even by Indian standards, the government launched the sports development program Khelo India (translated: "Game, India"). It should make talent visible, establish sports competitions, build infrastructure. The focus is on disciplines such as archery, boxing, badminton, wrestling and shooting. We also rely on know-how from abroad. The javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is looked after by two Germans: the throwing specialist Klaus Bartonietz and the world record holder Uwe Hohn.

And hockey has also gained in importance again. This could be seen, for example, in Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh. A street in his hometown of Kizhakkambalam is named after the goalkeeper of the Indian hockey team. He is a star in his home country. And just six seconds before the end of the game for third place, he showed again why. Sreejesh had to fend off a penalty corner. One of those very special set pieces in hockey that so often lead to goals. But Sreejesh stopped again. The ball bounced off its thick cushions, the game was over, Sreejesh ran away cheering and slid on his knees a few meters over the blue artificial turf of Tokyo.

Success leads to further success

India had won bronze against Germany. An exciting 5: 4. On the field the players fell into each other's arms, in the press seats two Indian journalists danced to the quickly played Bollywood music with a national flag in hand. It was the first medal for India's hockey team in 41 years. The former national sport had long been weak. Now he's back. "You started to really focus on sports a while ago," said Graham Reid, the Indian team's Australian coach. "The money is there, now these processes have to be kept going."

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And sometimes successes automatically lead to further successes. Sen calls it an "imitation effect". Since Abhinav Bindra won gold in shooting in 2008, the sport has been booming in the country. This year 16 shooters from India started in Tokyo, more than in any other sport. After the successes of PV Sindhu in badminton and Mirabai Chanu in weightlifting, Sen hopes for a similar effect in these two sports. He expects the same from wrestling and boxing. "Something like a tradition of excellence is developing there, and that's encouraging."

Neeraj Chopra was asked at the press conference what he had discussed with the Prime Minister. Chopra said that he should put even more money into the sport. An Indian journalist had to translate the answer. The media center also has simultaneous interpreters, but not for Hindi. They have not yet got used to Olympic champions from India.

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