Under-achievers India hope to turn the corner

NEW DELHI, July 29, 2008 (AFP) – India travel to the Olympics without their trademark field hockey team, but determined to prove they will not compete at Beijing just to make up the numbers. The hockey stars, India’s flag-bearers at past Olympics despite winning the last of their eight gold medals way back in 1980, have fallen on such hard times that they failed to qualify for the first time.

But officials are confident Indian hockey’s absence in Beijing will be made up by a promising display from other competitors like shooters, archers, boxers and tennis players.

“The Olympic world knows India for its hockey, but this is a good chance to prove there is more to our sport than that,” said the country’s senior Olympic official Randhir Singh.

India, a growing economy with ambitions to host the Olympics, has just four individual medals to show for its efforts at the four-yearly Games, the first one a bronze by wrestler Khasaba Jadhav at Helsinki in 1952.

The last three Games produced a medal each with tennis star Leander Paes winning a bronze at Atlanta, women’s weightlifter Karnam Malleswari a bronze in Sydney and shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore a silver at Athens.

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