There’s a nice little asterisk every time Norman Pritchard’s name is mentioned in Olympic record books that should make every Indian miss a heartbeat.
It’s more than 120 years since Pritchard won two silver medals, in 200m and 200m hurdles, at the second Olympics in Paris in 1900 but nobody is sure whether the Calcutta-born Pritchard represented India or Great Britain.
Well, the scene appears very gloomy when one removes the Pritchard angle.
Only 10, so far
Just 10 Indians — five from track and five in field events — have qualified for the finals (not counting straight finals) at the Olympics since independence.
They are Milkha Singh (1960, 400m, 4th), G.S. Randhawa (1964, 110m hurdles, 5th), Sriram Singh (1976, 800m, 7th), P.T. Usha (1984, 400m hurdles, 4th), Lalita Babar (2016, 3000 steeplechase, 10th) on track and Henry Rebello (1948, triple jump, 5th in qual., NM), Baldev Singh (1948, long jump, 11th in qual., DNS), Anju Bobby George (2004, long jump, 5th), Krishna Poonia (2012, discus throw, 6th) and Vikas Gowda (2012, discus throw, 8th).
While the near-miss stories of Milkha and Usha are well known, Rebello pulled a muscle after he was forced to wait nearly 30 minutes for his first triple jump because of victory ceremonies in 1948 where long jumper Baldev also missed the final with an injury.
And there was Lavy Pinto who entered the semifinals in both the 100 and 200m at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and would have been in the final in the shorter sprint had he been running in 1964 Games or after.
Unlike today’s eight lanes, the100m was run in six lanes in 1952 and Pinto was fourth in one of the two semifinals in a hand-timed 10.7s.