The newspaper headlines reported that both Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda “disappointed” by finishing 7th and 8th respectively in the women’s and men’s discus throw at the Olympics. What they missed out was that these two athletes reached the finals – the top 8 in the world in their respective event.

Krishna, who had won the gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and a bronze at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, had her best throw at 63.62, about 5.5 metres short of the gold winning performance of Sandra Perkovic who threw 69.11. Under all circumstances, this was a world class performance.

For Vikas Gowda, it might have been a personal disappointment. His personal best was 66.28m but in London, he finished with a best throw of 64.79, 4 metres short of the German Robert Harting’s gold winning performance of 68.27. The competition was slightly under par on a rainy, cold London evening. The top three in the event finished within 25 centimetres of each other. For Gowda, this was his first Olympics and given his age, it is not going to be his last. He is by far the best discus thrower in the country (though he is based in the United States).

Personally, the level of expectations that most people have are, in my opinion, highly unrealistic. Given that athletics is not exactly a very popular sport in India and the level of hard work, fitness training and sheer commitment to discipline, diets, etc. completely missing amongst Indians, one can’t really expect Indians to compete in this sport at the highest level. So when the exception does happen,  as happened in the case of Krishna or Vikas, instead of going overboard with expressions like “damp squib”, “crashed out”, “failed to deliver”, etc., one needs to acknowledge the effort put in despite the sports environment in the country.

The average Indian sportsperson not only has to compete against world class competitors, he or she also has to deal with a completely hostile environment – poor training, poor economic conditions, lack of support, etc.

So, these two, despite not winning any medals, get my vote for best performers in 2012.

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