Day 3 did not bring cheer to Indian fans. But as Rio puts up the greatest show of athleticism on the planet, on somewhat shaky legs, there is a lot going down there.
Heartbreak in seconds: It was a nearly exhilarating end to the day for India. Needing a little bit of inspiration after a slow start, there was none better to turn to than Abhinav Bindra—the nation's only individual Olympic gold medalist. In the qualifying for the finals of the 10m air rifle event, Bindra was somewhat off the mark. But his experience showed in the final series as he shot an incredible 10.8 to make it through. And what a final it was. Only those who have some knowledge of sport shooting will be familiar with the margins that these athletes have to deal with. The target diameter cannot exceed 45.5mm and the 10-point ring is just 0.5mm.
Level on scores with Serhiy Kulish of the Ukraine, Bindra's Olympic career came down to one shot. One shot between a medal and 4th place. One shot between furthering his country's paltry Olympic legacy and going home as just another competitor. His final shot was hardly off target. Bindra managed to hit a 10, but Kulish, who ended with silver, edged him out with a 10.5. It was doubtless a disappointment for the reticent shooter from Chandigarh. But he can end his career knowing he has done what no Indian before him could.
Almost simultaneously, there was heartbreak on the hockey field as well. India men put on a solid display against the defending champions, Germany, for most of the game. India defended strongly against waves of German attacks in the first half. Things turned around in the second half. They were dominating the attacking third and creating more chances than their opponents. Had any one of the many shots and penalty corners been converted, it would have been a different story. But, with three seconds on the clock, it was Germany who had the luck.
A hopeful ball was driven in and a clever deflection beat P. Sreejesh in the goal post to give Germany a 2—1 win. From an Indian perspective it was nothing short of a disaster. But for neutrals there couldn't be a better advertisement for the Games. Proof of how small the margins are and how much focus and determination these athletes need to be known as Olympic champions.
The Girl from Agartala: Dipa Karmakar, who has been winning gymnastics medals from as far back as 2002, has entered the global elite among athletes in her discipline. Making the finals of the Olympic vault event is the high point of an unlikely career. Karmakar's father, a SAI weightlifting coach, enrolled her in a gym at the age of five and she has been at it ever since, flat feet and all.
Karmakar's coach, Bisheshwor Nandi, has been with her every step of the way—from setting up tarps on the gym roof during the rains, to long train-journeys and endless hours of training hard enough to break most men. Karmakar is the first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics and added to that historic first by making it to the final. Even Simone Biles, gunning for a place among the greatest all-round gymnasts in history, reportedly chatted with the girl who turns 23 tomorrow (Aug 9) and wished her luck. Karmakar has made it from Agartala to Rio and you can watch her compete for a medal on 14 August at 23:17 IST.
Elevator meditation: Reports coming in from the Rio Athletes' Village have been far from appreciative. Australia and Dallas Mavericks centre Andrew Bogut started the sarcastic Twitter hashtag #IOCLuxuryLodging that has since seen plenty of action. Indian hockey team members were shown in one photograph putting together tables and chairs that they had to go out and buy because the apartments each had only a couple of bean bags for residents to sit on. There were also reports of the Village being without TV or Wifi.
In all this, Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro was stuck in an elevator because of a power outage for 40 minutes ahead of his tennis match against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Del Potro has a great record against the Serbian superstar in international competitions, having beaten Djokovic in the 2011 Davis Cup semifinals as well as the bronze medal match at London 2012. And the alone time seems to have done him good as he emerged victorious yet again, in straight sets. But to get to the court he first had to be rescued from the elevator by members of the Argentine handball squad!
The Swimmer who Feared the Water: Adam Peaty is currently the poster-boy of the British Olympic team. On Monday, in the 100m Breaststroke finals, he broke his own world record for the second time in two days as he blitzed his way to gold in 57.13 secs. His family have, in the meantime, revealed how Peaty used to be petrified of water and would scream in horror every time he was taken for a bath. When his mother started taking him to the pool, he used to scream there too. Peaty has clearly conquered his fear and became the first British swimmer to win the Olympic gold since 1988.
19 to the Dozen: Michael Phelps' career in the pool has had the perfect trajectory. My colleague at Sports Illustrated, Tim Layden, wrote: "In 2000 he was a prodigy; in '04 he was brilliant but imperfect; in '08 he was unbeatable; in '12 he was a legend on his farewell tour, diminished but still great. Three times he emerged a celebrity—each time a little more famous, a little more wealthy and a little more entrenched in the mythology of his quadrennial feats." Between London and Rio, Phelps has been through the most torturous time of his life. Caught driving under the influence of alcohol, those closest to him stepped in to help the medal-machine find some of the skills needed to deal with real life. It began with a period in rehab in Arizona. "It's probably the most afraid I've ever felt in my life," Phelps said. On Monday he raced the second leg of the 4X100 freestyle relay for the US and pulled off a spectacular lead that his teammates maintained for the rest of the event, winning their first major gold since 2009. Phelps is already the most decorated Olympian of all time (19 gold, 23 overall) and will attempt to add to that total in the 200m IM and the 100m and 200m Butterfly.
Also See on HuffPost: