Raj Bhavsar is Going to the Big Dance

Numerous readers have been sending us tips regarding Raj Bhavsar, an alternate on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team who will get to compete for the gold in Beijing after all. The space opened up on the team after star gymnast Paul Hamm was forced to withdraw due to injury.

Bhavsar was an alternate in 2004 as well, but didn’t get to compete. Despite a discouraging few years, Bhavsar continued to practice and train hard this spring and summer on the off-chance that a space might open up. Now his perseverance has paid off, and we wish him all the best. Based on what his colleagues and trainers have said about Bhavsar, as well as his own quotes in USA Today and The Houston Chronicle, he seems like a class act. (The ESPN story on Bhavsar also talks about how Bikram Yoga has helped him learn to concentrate better in the past year, a fact that I find quite interesting.)

NBC also had a nice profile of Bhavsar during the 2008 trials:

And you can see him performing a whole routine on rings here. (The dude has some serious biceps!)

Along with the stories about Raj Bhavsar (an Indian-American), KXB linked in the News Tab to a story in Foreign Policy about the “world’s worst Olympians,” where India actually tops the list (only 17 medals in its entire history). There is an inevitable discussion waiting to happen there, on why India always does so poorly (as I recall we had a version of it two years ago, when the World Cup was on). I don’t have any big answers, other than the obvious ones given in Foreign Policy: lack of sports venues, lack of school sports funding, lack of investment in preparing athletes for the Olympics. I don’t know whether “culture” is also a factor; I tend to think not.

At any rate, this year India is sending 57 atheletes to the Olympics, including the Paes and Bhupathi team for tennis doubles (where I suspect they might have a real shot). We might profile a few of the athletes in subsequent posts, depending on what comes up upon typing their names into the Google. Pakistan, for its part, is sending 23 athletes; Sri Lanka is sending eight (or maybe seven, depending on how we add 3+4); and Bangladesh is also sending a small contingent, to compete for wild card spots.

157 thoughts on “Raj Bhavsar is Going to the Big Dance

  1. India not performing….because of 1) Indians are good in some places. Are Americans cribbing why they are bad in Chess and Spelling Bee(not a sport but just fits for example) 2) Indians are cricket nation. 3) Last but not the least we are not intrested. We don’t care much in sports and we are not a sports persons. Why crib to be what we are not. Just enjoy what you are.

  2. I did some RnD on this Raj. He is a Gujju Veggie !!! Can you believe all those muscles are Vegeteraian.This proves that Veg or non-veg you have to do your training to get your musles.

  3. Everybody I have read your comments and will give my opinion based on my experience and knowledge.

    Overall of course nutrition, sanitation, education is more important than sports. But sports also has a place in India. This has always been the way.

    In my experience in general cricket is the only sports which has grass-roots level scouting across India. And it continues all the way to state and national level and of course international.

    I have experience of 3 sports at competitive level – Track and Field (State), Tennis (State but only for 1 season) and Volleyball (national).

    The main thing that is needed is GRASSROOTS level facilities, dedicated training facilities and coaching, of course investment and status / salary / sponsorship by society/business. Then it needs to be supported by the State and Nationally. For example Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi & some other places have a somewhat strong TRack and field representation (relative to India) in some states and there is governance and a programme, but not in other states which have no tradition/no perceived natural talent.

    We need coaches – the quality of coaches in India is very varied. Some are extremely good and some are really poor – an example in Volleyball. I went on a summer camp to another state and was shocked that the coach was not familiar with the recent volleyball changes and generally poor training methods and open favouritism. This doesnt inspire anyone – the “Non-favourites” and even the favourites get a sense of superiority/inflated perception of their talent.

    Another thing you talked about – women – well I think overall, yes women are not encouraged for sports, but MANY MANY are. I am one of them and its been in my family – with my mother playing badminton as a youth. An aunty of mine played volleyball. My cousin (girl) plays tennis and another is a Tae Kwon do exponent representing India or at least State level. Some other girls in my family are not sportswomen but enjoy sports and outdoors. We are not the norm, but also we are not unusual. Just for the record – someone mentioned it before – I was a very strong swimmer as a kid and was a good as the boys upto 15..but then quit of my own accord as there was no female swimming trainer/facilities and I just enjoyed other sports more.

    But I’m trying to give you a background – and the truth is – overall there is not enough money invested at all levels into sports in India – I talked about this before – grassroots, governance, coaching, experience of attending international meets, sponsorship, making a living!! Bindra who won the Gold in Shooting said that his family is rich, his dad had a shooting range in their garden. Now people who live in cities – Bombay especially – who has a garden?? Or how many parks, sports arenas do we have for sports other than cricket some football. If we do – how many of these are in useable state? Some are seriously a health hazard.

    To the people who say genes is a problem – well I would disagree – I truly believe that had I been from a very rich background and didn’t need to worry about sponsorship I would potentially have been on the international platform – definitely in Volleyball as this is my natural talent and interest.

    My cousins – well the one in tennis is a State level player and wants to play on but she cant guarantee she will be a Sania Mirza/Suneeta Rao. If she cant guarantee this no one will sponsor her for all her ATP tournaments etc… so she has actually been very brave – postponed her 12th board exams for a year and then do them – but concentrate on tennis for one year (this year) and hope to reach national levels.

    Tae Kwon do sis is deciding what to do..10th board this year which she is doing but will need to decide next year if any way of keeping her going as a career.

    Let me tell you (I am the eldest) – its a HEARTBREAKING decision to make to decide your sport is a hobby when you REALLY believe you can be in the Top 25 with the right coaching and investment.

    If you are from a more or less poor background – it may be “a way out” – but only if you are discovered young enough and somehow find the investment and coaching and really the chances of the poor are much less than middle class and rich. Only if they are in the Armed Forces or Railways will the less well to do guys get noticed.

    I have friends (male and female) in other sports – including those mentioned and Badminton, martial arts, football (soccer), Table tennis, golf – more or less the same is true though Tennis may be changing.

    Right now the best way to get into international scene if you’re not a cricketer is to get corporate sponsorship but that is available to again only those who are already v good and usually have had great training/facilities.

    Overall I will say if things were really really terrible before then in the last 5 years they have slightly improved – Asian Games next year has helped – but overall its still not going to win us medals in Olympic arena.

    Genes – all heights are ok. Tall people needed for B’ball, V’ball, Swimming, Track and Field etc, but shorter people are ideal for Diving, Weighlifting, Boxing, Gymnastics. of course everyone needs to be lean and fit – this is generally not a problem in India though of course you have fat kids etc but then they prob dont enjoy sports anyway so we are not losing potential golds there.

    Everyone has heard how Malayalees (kerala) and Punjabis are great at sports – yes overall this is true – but there is greater sports tradition in these places. I am not from either of these places and many of my sports friends are not – so talent is available all over India.

    I am really trying to get through to all you guys that we have great potential sportspersons, who have the killer instinct (that really made me mad), nothing is wrong with our genes (I can be bold and say definitely not mine!!) or talent but the lack of coaching and monetary support, overall governance sucks. And even if we are middle class its difficult – we need a full scholarship to a US School on a sports scholarship.

    I think the main things that support my argument is the two Indian origin gymnasts – Raj Bhavsar and Monisha (I think taht was her name). If they were Indian nationals would they have got medals at the Olympics? I can say most surely NOT. VERY SAD!!

    Until Sports becomes higher on the agenda (ie. something that appeals to VOTING MASSES) I dont think things will change apart from increase in corporate sponsorship. ANd of course voting masses have many other things on their mind…as even do affluent Indian voters.

    Ms. MSM

  4. Oh yeah another thing I wanted to say – I am a vegetarian too. My cousins are not. Personally I dont think it matters as long as you are getting right quantity and variety of protein intake!

  5. 27 · jyotsana said

    I would rather all Indians enjoy access to sanitation and clean water, than for the country to win even a single Olympic medal. There are a lot many more things for India and Indians to be disappointed about than not managing to win a few medals.

    firstly, i congratulate raj bhavsar on achieving his goal to win an olympic medal. i applaud his parents for encouraging him 100% and i’m glad he respresents the diverse face of athletics in this country. at least the u.s. has a sports infrastructure to support him in his goals…which is more than i can say for countries like india, which is more concerned in promoting gaudy, trashy and incapable actresses to international stardom and is super-saturated with people who think sports to be an egotistical pursuit and wholly unimportant.

    secondly, i want indians to enjoy access to sanitation and clean water AND a HUGE overhaul in their mentality towards sports. traditional idiosyncrasies which prevent both regular men and women from participating in them and the whole nonsense of involving bollywood in every aspect of indian society – especially in sports – is disgraceful, embarrassing and inherently damaging to not only creating a sports infrastructure but a healthy society.

  6. 105 · Nikhil said

    let’s call a spade a spade. indians are just not athletic people. it’s not a money issue. the standard set of excuses we regurgitate every 4 years (no funding, no parental support for sports participation, etc.) is a crock of shit. many poorer nations with much smaller populations produce larger numbers of higher quality athletes with even more pathetic funding. there are countless examples of dirt poor athletes who grew up with no facilities or funding whatsoever and made it big…african runners, brazilian soccer players, mexican boxers, NBA basketball stars, etc.

    sub-3 says:

    So, basically, veena raddy, raj bhavsar, etc. and not to mention a whole slew of regular indians in their 20′s and 30′s who are serious competitors in sports throughout the u.s. are exceptions to the rule right? i don’t think so. there are plenty of indians who consider sports to be a major part of their life along with their real career and i’m not talking about those indan gym rats who pump iron after work in order to look good for girls. i’m talking about indians who seriously participate in sports at the collegiate and post-collegiate levels. i personally know some of them.

    i really think it has to do with the mentality of people who have convinced themselves that they are not pre-disposed to doing something. i honestly think it’s an idiotic attitude in general. i think if people gave sports an inportance in thier lives instead of thinking it as merely a matter of brawn versus brains, and started to participate in sports firstly for the sheer enjoyment of it and then develop a taste for competition, they would be quite successful.

    most children in the u.s. who start out participating in sports do so because they have too much energy and need a healthy outlet for releasing it or they have at least one parent who is or was an athlete; there are other reasons too but these are the first ones that come to my mind. sports do build character, no mater what some people say.

    not all, but many men and women who are very successful in their careers had or still have athletic prowess and it’s not always due to their genetics. if some can claim genetic pre-disposition to sports, then others cannot…they’ve had to struggle to be successful in gaining athletic proficiency. pre-disposition means squat if you don’t fully exploit that natural tendency. so to say that indians are just not athletic people is a total cop-out which absolves a whole race/nation from reaching their full potential in a whole new arena. it absolves them from not wanting to leave their cubilces and familiar professions and it absolves them from heading towards becoming fat and lazy.

    aside from the hard-working villagers and those who are malnutritioned – who are poor, india’s middle and upper classes are becoming increasingly soft and round. there are many ‘specimen’ who reside not only in india but abroad. if indians are pre-disposed to anything, it’s a pre-disposition to think that they are pre-disposed to being or not being certain things. this pre-disposition has absolutely nothing to do with genetics but has everything to do with what kind of mentality the parents impress upon their kids, therefore they can’t even claim “pre-” anything. they are just guilty of disposing thoughts of athleticism and gearing their kids toward doing well in school and taking part in cultural activities (while there is no harm in that, there is harm in not teaching kids to struggle and succeed together).

    i think it’s about time indians showed that they can stop making excuses for their inability to succeed in sports and start believing in themselves so that they can succeed.

    goodnight all…it’s WAAAAAAAY past my bedtime, i have a race to run in the morning.