Batra: Next one year critical and focus will be on elite athletes

Moreover, the Indian Olympic Association president Narinder Batra is confident of sending a record contingent of 125 athletes to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Narinder Batra

Narinder Batra is hopeful of sending a bigger Indian contingent for next year's Games.   -  PTI Photo

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra is confident of sending a record contingent of 125 athletes to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

On the occasion of International Olympic Day celebrations, the IOA boss was joined by sporting legends such as Leander Paes, Abhinav Bindra and Anju Bobby George during a webinar, which focussed on sport in the post COVID-19 world.

“The next one year is going to be critical and the focus will be on elite athletes. While we have 78 athletes who have already qualified, I am confident the numbers will go up to about 125 athletes once international competitions and qualifying meets resume around the globe,” Batra said.

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“The preparations will be a joint effort by the Government of India, IOA, NSFs (National Sports Federations) and I feel this is a situation where the best needs to be taken out of the worst.”

India sent a 117-member contingent at the 2016 Rio Games and 83 competitors to London in 2012.

The pandemic had brought the sporting world to a standstill in March, forcing, among others, postponement of the Olympics by a year.

The objective now is to resume sporting activities in a phased manner even though the situation in the country is far from normal.

Batra added, “Few sports like hockey, weightlifting and athletics have already started and shooting too will begin sometime in mid July. I am in touch with all the NSFs, as well as some athletes and I am optimistic we are on track for Tokyo Olympics in 2021.”

Olympic champion Bindra insisted that a holistic approach is what will make the difference.

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“Olympics is once in four years, and athletes have only one shot at glory, and it’s important to have a holistic approach, use science, use medicine, use technology and engineering in training and that will make a difference,” Bindra said.

Underlining the importance of tapping talent in the rural belt, Olympic bronze medallist and multiple Grand Slam winner Paes said: “Most of India’s talent is untouched, and it is great that Odisha has set an example of creating excellence at grassroots level. This is very important.

“More global events are coming to Odisha and while the state has done fabulously in hosting the Men’s World Cup in 2018 among other events, the programs rolled out to develop grassroot sports in association with corporates is commendable.”