They are two of the finest champions we have had in Indian sports. It was no surprise that when P. Gopi Chand and Narain Karthikeyan gave an insight into their journey, it was a spell-binding experience for the audience in the World Summit for Ethics and Leadership in Sports on Friday.
Gopi Chand, who had won the All England championship after undergoing three knee surgeries, said, “I got a chance to do what I wanted to do. I always counted my blessings. From outside, it may have looked hard work, but I never felt it as a challenge. At every step, I felt that the next step was possible”.
Narain, the first from the country to drive in Formula One, advised young drivers and sportspersons to “never take anything for granted”.
Narain recalled how he had missed a golden opportunity, when he was 22, because of a “stupid mistake”.
It was the F3 World Cup in Macau, when so much was at stake, and Narain was confident and at his best.
“At that time I thought that F1 was there in the next two weeks! I was in pole position. Was seven seconds faster. I had an incredible lap. I gave it all. I broke lap record five times. But, the fitness part, I had taken for granted. On lap seven, there was a slight lapse of concentration. It was a street circuit. I had negotiated that bump hundreds of times, but on the same bump, I crashed on to the barrier. It was game over”, said Narain.
It hurt a lot, as Ayrton Senna in 1983 and Michael Schumacher in 1990 had moved to F1 immediately after winning the same F3 World Cup. Narain had to wait for five more years after that Macau race to make his F1 debut in Australia.
“Such a stupid mistake. It was very difficult for me. I had so many contracts and people started pulling away. We live and learn”, said Narain. “If you really want it, you can do it,” he added.
He did win the next race but it did not matter as the opportunity had been lost when all the teams were watching in Macau, hunting for talent.
Narain said that his example would help others to have the confidence to venture into F1.
‘’Aim big, dream big. You will get there some day,” he said.
A host of other athletes, including Yogeshwar Dutt, Akhil Kumar and Bilquis Mir, made interesting points. The president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Kalyan Chaubey, pointed out that with the help of the government and world football body FIFA giving one million footballs, the game was being made accessible to millions of students across the country.
“We would not have had the expertise to distribute those footballs. With government and Navodaya Schools, we can benefit 26 crore students”, said Chaubey.
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