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.