January 24, 2020
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The Golden Bronze

She bitterly rues her missed chance in Sydney, but is proud to be India’s first woman medallist

The Golden Bronze
Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
The Golden Bronze

Draped in a fetching silk saree, in her 12th floor chamber in the Food Corporation of India building in central Delhi, Karnam Malleswari doesn’t look an Olympic medal-winning weightlifter. Get her talking about the sport she loves, particularly about the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Malleswari outs with some bittersweet memories. She was the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal, but she would have preferred the gold, not the bronze she won. A former world champion, Malleswari, now 41, says she was focussed and capable but luck was not on her side that day in Sydney. It rankles still.

With a bit more effort, feels Malleswari, the top honours would have been hers. “I know it’s not possible to reverse time gone by, but I think that if I had got one more chance I’d have won the gold. I regret that miss,” she tells Outlook. “I reg­ret it because I was capable of accomplishing it. I had lifted more weight than that [137.5kg] in practice in India,” she rues. Malleswari, who’s from Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, lifted a total of 240kg (110kg in snatch and 130kg in clean and jerk) to get bronze while Weining Lin of China won the gold with a total of 242.5kg and Erzsebet Peresztegine Markus of Hungary the silver.

Malleswari fumbled while trying to lift 137.5 kg in her final attempt while going for gold. At times, she has blamed her coaches for the ‘miscalculation’ in setting the weight. “Actually, when the weight was raised to 137.5kg, I lifted it quickly and the barbell hit me forcefully here [pointing to her neck] and I had a blackout, perhaps due to the rod hitting a nerve. That was why I wan­ted to complete the lift quickly and lost footing. It was a technical mistake,” she says, recalling the failed lift. “It was not due to nervousness. It was not in my destiny to win the gold.”

However, disappointment abates when you point out that she made history by becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. “Yes, that somewhat lessened my regret. And it was the lone medal India won in Sydney. When whole of India was celebrating, I was happy. But deep inside I was disappointed,” she says with a sad smile.

Women’s weightlifting was included as a medal sport for the first time in Sydney, and Malleswari took her aim at the top. “Since I had been world champion twice and had created two world records, I wan­ted the gold.” Now a chief gen­­­­eral manager with FCI, Malleswari and her weightlifting husband Rajesh Tyagi have two sons—Sharad, 15, and Angad, 10. Sharad is a keen 10m rifle shooter; his mother sees potential in him—to ext­end her Olympic legacy.

Super Saina
Battle Ready For Brazil

Saina Nehwal has war­med up in style in her quest for the Olympic gold. After winning the Australia Open on Sunday, the 26-year-old Hyderabadi said that she’d like to reach Rio early to prepare for the Games that start  on Aug 5. “All I can say is that I will go there and give my best,” said the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist.

Rio Ready
Yes, Mister Minister

New Brazilian sport minister Leonardo Picc­­iani says he is confident the Olympics will be “suc­­cessful”, putting aside concerns about Zika, crime or polluted waters. “All venues are fantastic. Brazilians are excited to receive all the tourists, all the athletes,” he adds.

Music Range
The Bullet Takes On Sound Waves 

Rio is a song and dance city, but this may be too much for our shooters. There will be music playing even dur­ing competitions at the Olympics and not all Indian shooters who have qualified are comfortable with music while aiming and shooting targets. Heena Sidhu, who has qualified for the 10m air pistol and 25m pistol events, has already voiced her concern. Olympic champion Gagan Narang, who will take part in the 50m rifle 3-position prone, 50m rifle prone, and 10m rifle prone, is sceptical too.

The National Rifle Asso­ci­ation of India says all Indian shooters competing in the Rio Games have taken part in the World Cup at the same range in Rio a couple of months ago and had no complaints. “The Intern­ational Olympic Committee wanted music to be played during the shooting event at the Rio Games,” an NRAI official told Outlook. “Only Heena has this issue. Apart from her, no other shooter has said anything about music being a distraction. Gagan has only wondered if a draw that would have him stand and shoot from next to the speakers would distract him or not.”

Sting Scare
Doubles Trouble

So Leander Paes will, after all, play his seventh successive Olympic Games. The All India Tennis Association’s selection committee has named Paes as Rohan Bopanna’s doubles partner, much against the wish of the latter. Boppana showed some grace and accepted the verdict despite making it known that he and Paes, who turned 43 on June 17, were not “either compatible or complementary”. Bopanna, by virtue of being a top-10 doubles player globally, had chosen Saketh Myneni, ranked 125th as his partner. But the selection committee felt that Paes, ranked 46, would be a better choice for the country. Just bef­ore the previous Olympics in London, there was a full-blown controversy over the choice of players, with the Indian tennis squad clearly showing its vertical divide. Bop­anna will also play in the mixed doubles, along with Sania Mirza, who is the world’s No. 1 women’s doubles player. In women’s doubles, Sania will partner Prarthana Thombare.

Rio’s Flamengo beach, site of the sailing events, in whose waters a drug-resistant bacteria is found

21 The height of the under-construction beach volleyball sta  dium, in metres, at Rio’s Copacabana beach. Equivalent to a seven-storey building, the stadium will seat 12,000 spectators. But wo   rk on it has been stalled due to lack of environmental clearance

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