When I was an athlete and competing on the world stage, I could see the fear on the faces of my fellow athletes when they came to major championships. There were just one or two who had something to show at the international level. Most of them were able to perform at the Asian level but beyond that there was nothing. We had just one or two medals in the Commonwealth Games, but beyond that nobody expected anything... nobody even tried.
Now, when our athletes compete in big meets, they don’t want to just go and come back, they want to perform. That is one big positive that has come now and that should see us do well.
The long-term plans of the Athletics Federation of India, with support from the Government, Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India, are showing results. And it’s not just a single athlete but a bunch of athletes who are coming up. And the ‘bench’ (the second string) is also getting into the bigger group.
If you look at javelin throw, Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra is way ahead and there are a couple of athletes who are above 80m. In (men’s) triple jump, they are competing among themselves. Our long jumpers, both men and women, are doing well. It is a little slow in the 400m now but the event is also our strength. Walking is also doing good. In the next Olympics (Paris 2024), there is hope not just in the javelin throw, but from our jumpers, too. Both the long jumpers and triple jumpers are closest to our next medal in the Olympics. And the walkers are also showing promise, but it is tough. Avinash Sable, in the 3000m steeplechase too... it will be tough for him but he will fight for it. Now, our athletes know how to prepare.
Initially, I was trying to educate them, told them to go for competitions, because I did the same. Now our athletes are going for quality competitions, they are getting the experience and that will definitely make a difference. Regarding doping, information is readily available for everybody and the stuff is also easy to get. If they want to dope, they will do it. It is an individual’s decision. Athletes are not with us 24 hours, they are somewhere, training with somebody. There will be a lot of influence from outside. We are trying our best to prevent doping but it is impossible to stop the menace completely.
As told to Stan Rayan
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