Iconic Asian Games medals: India's historic volleyball bronze in Seoul


PV Ramanna

1986 Asian Games, Seoul

Part of India's bronze-medal winning volleyball team

It was a long way back. Of course India hasn't won a medal in volleyball since, so we can say that was special. It was a dream team - Jimmy George, Cyril Valloor, Abdul Basith, Sandeep Sharma and myself, among others. It was a great combination of young and senior players. We were placed in Pool A and had qualified for the final round just behind South Korea.

Though we lost to South Korea and China, our win against Japan got us a bronze medal. It was Indian volleyball's first Asian Games medal in 24 years after the silver in 1962 Jakarta Games. It's very unfortunate though that we lost some of the key members of that team, Jimmy, Basith and Udayakumar, to sudden, untimely deaths.

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The videos of the matches are still on YouTube and I'm the guy in chest number 11. It's sad that after that success, we haven't been able to bring home a medal but let's hope things will change.

The dressing room experience was a memorable one because though we had some towering names like Jimmy -- who was already a professional playing overseas then -- in our midst, everyone was made to feel equal and welcome. Despite being a lot senior to many of us, Jimmy always loved playing with juniors, encouraged all of us and even played blindfold chess with us. There was great camaraderie in the team and it was never about the individual. Our meetings were always about how we can work as a single unit and put up a united effort. We were overjoyed after our 3-0 win over Japan and I recall the team returning to a very warm welcome thrown by the volleyball federation.

Of course, celebrations after a medal in those days don't match what it is today. I only got to know what a medal celebration is like after my daughter (PV Sindhu) won a silver medal in badminton at the 2016 Olympics. There's a world of difference.

After I left the volleyball scene in 2002, I've never gone back, but immersed myself entirely in badminton for my daughter. In fact, when I think of it, it's funny that I've actually spent the last 16 years in badminton -- probably a lot more time than I actually gave for volleyball. The jump smash is something I taught Sindhu early on. Badminton and volleyball are similar in many ways, especially the use of the shoulders, the only difference is you have a racket, is what I keep telling her.

Of course, the jump smash is now all hers. She has mastered it.

(As told to Susan Ninan)