In one of last week’s developments, the Indian Olympic Association, IOA announced that 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra would be the flag-bearer of Indian contingent at Rio Games’ opening ceremony on August 5. This will also be the fifth Olympic appearance for the ace shooter, who is the sole individual gold medal winner in India’s Olympic history. In other Rio-Olympic related news, army-man Avtar Singh booked his ticket for Judo under the 90 kg weight category from the continental quota; Narsingh Yadav’s name was cleared after Delhi High Court rejected the plea of wrestler Sushil Kumar for holding selection trials in 74 kg freestyle category and Rio-bound athlete Tintu Luka won a silver medal in the Josef Odlozil Memorial Athletics Meet at Prague in the 800m category by clocking her season’s best performance.

Abhinav Bindra

India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra  Express Photo By Sandeep Daundkar

33-year-old Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra will hold the tri-color and lead the Indian Olympic contingent during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro on August 5. Bindra is the only Indian to have won the gold medal for the country in an individual event and achieved that feat in 10-metre air rifle competition at 2008 Beijing Games. This will be the fifth time that Bindra will represent India in sports’ most coveted quadrennial global extravaganza. The decision was announced last week by the IOA and there was an all-round unanimity about it because the usually reserved Bindra is one of the most respected sportspersons in India. Bindra’s name was also considered for the 2012 London Games along with wrestler Sushil Kumar and tennis legend Leander Paes but the honor went to Sushil on that occasion. After IOA’s announcement, the ace shooter has sent individual messages to every Rio-bound Indian participant for sharing their thoughts on what the Games mean to them. He has also assured his colleagues that he would be available for any chats or queries. For the Rio Games, India are sending their largest ever contingent. As of June 10, 96 athletes have already qualified compared to 83 for the 2012 London Games. Two days after IOA honored him as the national flag-bearer for Rio, Abhinav Bindra announced his retirement from the sport. He felt pleased in being chosen as the contingent leader and said that he would bring the curtains down on his illustrious career after the Rio Games.

Avtar In another heartening new-break last week, the size of India’s Olympic contingent grew further, when top Indian judoka Avtar Singh qualified for the 2016 Rio Games. As per the list issued by the International Judo Federation on Saturday, Avtar qualified for the Summer Olympics under the continental quota in the 90-kg category. Avtar hails from Punjab’s Gurdaspur area and is employed with the Punjab Armed Police. He is the gold medal winner in the South Asian Games held in Shillong in February 2016 and a bronze medalist of Asian Junior Judo Championships in 2011. He also won gold medals in Senior National Judo Championships in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Last April, Avtar went to participate in Asian Judo Championships at Uzbekistan and finished fifth after beating competitors from China and Iran.

India’s Rio Quest

In one more good news for Indian athletics, India’s Rio qualified 800m woman athlete Tintu Luka produced her season’s best showing by clocking 2:00.61 minutes in the 800m event of Josef Odlozil Memorial Athletics Meet in Prague on Tuesday night. In the process, Tintu also won the silver medal by finishing behind Anita Hinriksdottir of Iceland, who clocked 2:0054 in winning the race. The second place at the Prague Meet will certainly encourage Tintu to do better in a rich field of 800m at Rio. The 27-year-old Kerala woman is 30th among the season’s top list, which is headed by London Olympics silver medalist and current Diamond Race leader Caster Semenya of South Africa. Semenya’s time of 1:56.64 is way ahead of Tintu’s and the Indian will have to strive for dipping several seconds of her best ever time of 1:59.17 that she clocked 6 years ago.