Olympian Praveen Kumar believes Tokyo Games will be all body, no soul

He has lived through the 1972 Munich Olympics and believes that just like that edition irrevocably changed Olympics, the Tokyo Games would be a watershed.

Praveen Kumar won discus gold at the 1966 and 1970 Asiad and silver in 1974. He also won bronze in hammer throw in 1966 and added a silver in the same event at the Kingston Commonwealth Games that year.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Discus thrower Praveen Kumar Sobti is a two-time Olympian, a Commonwealth Games medalist, a double Asian Games gold-medalist and one of the rare ones to win a medal in three consecutive editions.

He has also lived through the 1972 Munich Olympics – perhaps one of the darkest episodes in terms of Olympic history – and believes that just like that edition irrevocably changed Olympics, the Tokyo Games would be a watershed.

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“Personally, I believe Mexico (1968) was the last of the true Olympics in terms of freedom, openness and celebration. After Munich (and the massacre) things haven’t been the same. In terms of security, restrictions and the whole idea of Olympics, it was a turning point. Tokyo will be the same,” Praveen said.

“Olympic next year will be a mere formality. The momentum that was building up before COVID-19 was targeted for 2020. People were training for four years to peak this year. Now you have to maintain your performance for one more year. For a professional sportsperson, that is extremely difficult,” he was categorical.

“Athletes will go down, they have to, and then try and peak again within one year. Four years of planning has to be replicated in 12 months. Anyone who says it won’t affect doesn’t understand sports.” — Praveen Kumar, Olympian

“Athletes will go down, they have to, and then try and peak again within one year. Four years of planning has to be replicated in 12 months. Anyone who says it won’t affect doesn’t understand sports,” he added.

Praveen won discus gold at the 1966 and 1970 Asiad and silver in 1974. He also won bronze in hammer throw in 1966 and added a silver in the same event at the Kingston Commonwealth Games that year. He believes that the mental and emotional comeback for athletes from the pandemic would be equally tough.

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“Athletes would also be disheartened. Training for Olympics is a single-minded pursuit and when that target is suddenly pushed away, things change. The competitions and competitors may or may not be available again whenever training starts,” he added.

There are economic ramifications as well, he explained. “The companies supporting Olympics and athletes will also be suffering because of this virus and that will affect preparations. Morale would be hurt. To be honest, people are a lot less interested in sports right now, the attention is on more important considerations. How can the spirit, the essence of Games remain the same? It will be all body, no soul,” he asked.