There have been many Olympics before, but the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was different for India. Many firsts occurred during these games, starting with Mirabai Chanu igniting the country's hopes with a first-day silver medal.
India had sent its biggest ever contingent of athletes (126), competing in 69 disciplines. Therefore, despite the heartbreak in archery & shooting, new heroes were emerging every day, keeping the Olympic flame alive through the 16-day extravaganza in the land of the rising sun.
Neeraj Chopra ending our campaign with a first-ever track & field gold for India was just the icing on the cake.
I agree entirely with Avijit Ghosh that this Olympics campaign did what no earlier campaign had done before; it gave India an emotional connection with the games.
The online Indian celebrated each medal regardless of its color. Still, the most heartening was the outpouring of support to those athletes that fought valiantly but narrowly missed the podium especially after the women's hockey team lost to Great Britain in a keenly contested bronze match playoff.
Our best-ever performance is a reason to celebrate that we finished in the top 50 nations at the Olympics. However, this is a stepping stone for achieving more significant results in the future, i.e., targeting a top-20 finish. Prakash Padukone believes that it is possible if the athletes channeled their energies to go for gold after getting into a position securing a podium finish.
I largely agree with Prakash sir as I too cringed when Lovlina's brilliant victory in the quarters got reported as "Lovlina Borgohain assured of Olympic boxing medal after reaching semifinal" by a respected sports publication like SportsStar. Our athletes weren't there to assure a medal. They were there to win the gold for the country. We were no longer that Indian public that was happy to participate, this new India, knew we could compete with the best and win.
However, the tempered reaction from the media to the wild celebrations on securing those bronze medals is expected in a country starved of its fair share of Olympic heroes. Like the 1983 cricket, World Cup triumph that inspired a generation of cricket lovers, the performances in these Olympics will inspire a generation of children to pick up a javelin or a golf club after they are done with their pencil.
Let us not forget that we celebrated 1 unicorn in 2011, which was an essential step to adding 21 more unicorns just halfway through 2021.