Leander Paes, the Indian tennis legend and Olympic bronze medallist, while speaking at the Sportstar East Sports Conclave 2023 in Kolkata, said that his career as an athlete was set at a young age by being brought up in a family of sportspersons.
Leander’s father Dr. Vece Paes is a hockey legend and Munich Olympic bronze medallist, while his mother Jennifer Paes is a former Indian basketball player and Olympian.
In a session moderated by The Hindu Sports Editor, K.C. Vijaya Kumar, Leander, responding to a question, said the Olympics and he is an umbilical cord.
“I was conceived at the 1972 Olympics.”
Talking about his childhood which played a huge role in instilling an understanding of sports in him, the 49-year-old said, “Coming from India, with such a rich heritage, we should be aware of the legacy we are born with - especially in a State like West Bengal.
On one side there was tremendous pressure, but on the other side, the environment at home was so supportive and so wonderfully laid out to get to understand sports. By the age of six or seven, I already knew what legacy I was born into and what I was on this planet for. The purpose of my life was written very early by my parents.”
On the heroes he looked up to in his growing days, Leander, the winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, said, “I was lucky I had heroes to look up to. Chuni Goswami, Premjit Lall, Jaidip Mukerjea. I have immense respect for Jaidip sir’s father because he used to give me tips every day. How to keep my head still and so on.”
The tennis ace also said that he was lucky brought up in a state like West Bengal. “How lucky one was to be brought up in Bengal. How many young kids have the opportunity to be part of clubs? It is expensive. To have a Shivaji Park in Bombay or the Maidan in Kolkata is a huge blessing right in the heart of the city.”
Leander, meanwhile, said that tennis was never his dream as he slept with football, literally growing up in Kolkata.
“I used to sleep with my football and polish my boots. No one could touch them. When you have Bengali roots from your mum’s side and Goan roots from your dad’s, it was football, football and football,” he said.
The Conclave was held in association with Hero We Care - a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, Indian Oil, Shiv-Naresh, Rau’s IAS Study Circle, Pinnacle Infotech, Maithan Alloys Ltd, Merlin Group, SRMB, Techno India Group’s Sister Nivedita University, Indian Bank and Meghbela Broadband.