Rathore inspires Olympics bound athletes

Suggesting that the situation had changed quite encouragingly from the time he had taken up shooting in 1998, Rathore said that the outlook had improved from looking for one medal from the Olympics to, "everyone hoping for medals in double digits".

Olympic Silver medalist and Minister of State for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore (centre) with Gagan Narang (left) and Mary Kom.   -  PTI

Olympic silver medallist Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, inspired the Rio bound athletes with words of wisdom, at a function organised by the Olympians Association of India on Monday.

Suggesting that the situation had changed quite encouragingly from the time he had taken up shooting in 1998, Rathore said that the outlook had improved from looking for one medal from the Olympics to, “everyone hoping for medals in double digits”.

The silver medallist of the Athens Olympics in 2004 said that the athletes had to just stay focused to perform at their best in the Olympics.

“We have 112 athletes who have qualified so far. I look at it as 112 chances of winning Olympic medals”, said Rathore, as he took the pressure away from the athletes.

“You all have competed in World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games etc. The arena is going to be the same. The opponents are going to be the same in many cases. Therefore, if you peel off the layers like the flags, cameras and the audience, it will be the same competition that you have been doing again and again”, said Rathore, as he simplified the scenario and provided a clarity of approach.

Elaborating further, Rathore said that it would be the same shuttlecock and “the same target that flies in the air. Keep your focus and give it your best. Win or lose you will remember the experience with a sense of pride, for ever”, said Rathore.

He emphasised that once they stepped on to the arena in the Olympics, they no longer would have any name or State or anything, “you are India”, he stressed.

“You are the ambassadors of the country. Olympics comes once in four years. So, give it your best”, he goaded the athletes.

Congratulating the Olympians Association of India (OAI) that is affiliated to the World Olympians Association (WOA) under the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Rathore wanted the Olympians to help nurture and guide talent in various capacities. He opined that the body could serve as one platform that could help all the sports aspirants solve their problems and progress smoothly towards their goals.

“The Sports Authority of India is doing a lot. But, it can do a lot more. It is not just the Indian athletes, but athletes in every country have their problems’’, Rathore explained, as he put things in perspective.

It was the Minister of State for Sports, Jitendra Singh, who said that within his limited experience of handling the portfolio in recent weeks, Indian medal tally could touch two digits in the Rio Games. He particularly emphasised the > warm send-off given by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the morning and the fact that he spent 45 minutes with the athletes, talking to them and encouraging them.

There was a galaxy of shooters, wrestlers, archers, badminton and table tennis players who assembled along with the officials for the send-off.

“The PM encouraged us and said that you are going to win medals. We said that we will give our best’’, said badminton ace PV Sindhu.

Bringing down the expectations to realistic proportions, World Championship medallist Anju Bobby George, who placed fifth in the Athens Olympics in long jump, said that Indian athletics would be ready to win Olympic medals possibly by 2024.

“We expect a few finalists this time. If we get a medal, great!’’, Anju said, when probed about the prospects of a medal in athletics.

The president of the OAI, five-time Winter Olympics luge exponent Shiva Keshavan said that efforts were on to unify all the Olympians, from among the 895 who had represented the country in the Olympics. He said that every effort would be made to strengthen the association in various ways and help the fraternity during and beyond their Olympic career.

IOC member and Athletes Commission Chairperson Claudia Bokel was a special guest on the occasion along with World Olympians Association treasurer and IOC Athletes Commission member, Patrick Singleton.

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