As Yogeshwar Dutt lost to Mongolia's Mandakhnaran Ganzorig to all but bring India's challenge at Rio to a close, their respective countries were duelling it out for spots on the medal table. In the end, both had to settle for one silver and one bronze, tying at 67th.

To measure India's performance by medals alone would, of course, be quite simple. But what does the picture beyond the podium reveal?

Leaving aside the team sport – men's and women's hockey with squads of 18 each – the discipline with the highest number of competitors, 34, was athletics, followed by shooting with 12.

While athletics brought no medals, it is interesting to note that some of the best performances by Indians in Rio were actually from field events. The marathon men and the long-distance walkers clocked impressive performances to finish among the top 20 per cent.

Badminton, wrestling, and shooting were the sports at which more than one Indian athlete did well, despite the failure of big names such as Saina Nehwal and Yogeshwar Dutt.

In sports like badminton, where official finishing positions are not provided beyond the top 4, Srikanth Kidambi was adjudged to have finished 5th after his quarter-final ouster by Lin Dan. Kidambi won the most number of points among the losing quarter-finalists, and lost his match by the slimmest of margins.

The Medallists

After 11 barren days, Sakshi Malik finally made the breakthrough for team India. The Haryana-born grappler had lost in the quarter-final of the 58-kg women's wrestling, but qualified for repechage after her conqueror entered the final.

Despite giving away leads, Malik prevailed in both her matches, scoring crucial points in the last moments of her bout against Aisuluu Tynybekova of Krygyzstan to become India's first woman wrestler to win a medal. It was on the same day that another medal hopeful, Vinesh Phogat, injured herself midway through her fight.

Joining Sakshi Malik as a medal winner was PV Sindhu, who created a slew of firsts, including becoming the first Indian woman to win an individual silver medal. At 21, Sindhu also became the youngest Indian ever to win an individual medal.

The ferocity and aggression showed by the Hyderabadi was extraordinary, as Sindhu beat the World. Nos. 8, 2 and 6, respectively, on her way to the final. In the end, she lost to the World No. 1, Carolina Marin, who was simply a notch higher on the day, but not before making a match of it. She took the first game before Marin fought back to win the next two and the match.

Near misses

The spectacular performance put up by Dipa Karmakar, who was rightly hailed as a hero after her 4th place finish in the vaults final of the women's gymnastics competition, restored faith in the ability of Indians to match the best in the world. The athlete from Tripura made history by becoming the first Indian woman to make the final of a gymnastics event at the Olympics.

India's only individual gold medal winner in Olympic history, Abhinav Bindra, bid farewell to the Games after coming within 0.5 points of a bronze to finish 4th in the men's 10m air rifle. Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna, playing in the mixed doubles, were the only seeded pair left in the competition after the first round, but failed to capitalise on their strength and lost both the semi-final and the bronze medal match to finish fourth.

Two other performances to remember were Atanu Das's narrow loss in men's individual archery, and Lalita Babar's becoming the first Indian since PT Usha to run in a track event final after qualifying in 7th place for the women's 3000 m steeplechase final.

Das's ice-cool shooting won him many fans and he was beaten narrowly in the Round of 16 after qualifying 5th with a wonderful round of 683 out of a possible 720 and then winning his Round of 32 match.

India must not merely hope but also strategise to do better at Tokyo in four years. Most of all, the mistakes of Rio must be avoided. In order to prepare champions for 2020, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) must start making plans today and also execute them with steely intent.