Australian swimming great Stephanie Rice on Friday said she is planning to set up an academy in India in her pursuit to produce future Olympic medallist from the country in her sport.
Rice won three gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics at the age of 20 and retired from the sport six years later.
Beyond her television assignments and other promotional activities, she said her ultimate goal is to establish a swimming academy in India and groom Olympic medal winners.
“I am really working on it. I have had a number of opportunities to do that but just has not been the right time or the right infrastructure. I am quite passionate about India and I have spoken to quite a lot of people to start a swimming academy,” Rice told PTI in an interview.
“If India has to do well in the Olympics, the country will have to win medals in sports like swimming.”
Asked if there is a lack of sporting culture in India, she said, “It is not like that, India is fantastic in so many sports, say cricket or hockey. I don’t think that it is about lack of quality. India has a lot of talent and good infrastructure also. The issue is someone who is running it needs to understand what is going on at the top level.
“You need people who have done before, great coaches and great support staff and they will have to be given time of at least four years. It is not that you will get medals after working with an athlete for one year. So, if India wants to do well in 2024 Olympics, we need to start now.”
Rice was a part of the commentary team that was analysing India’s performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics and she is currently doing the same job in the ongoing Pro Kabaddi League.
“I have worked a number of times for television in India. I have covered India’s performance (in the TV commentary team) for Rio Olympics. They (Pro Kabaddi League organisers) asked me whether I want to do it in PKL. I said absolutely I will do, three months in India for that and it’s a dream come true,” the 30-year-old said.
“I didn't know anything about kabaddi before this assignment. I am starting from scratch. It is tough to pronounce Indian names (in PKL) but I am learning and enjoying every bit,” she said at the sidelines of the Ekamra Sports Literary Festival here.
Last month, the World Anti-Doping Agency provisionally re-instated Russia after a three-year suspension following a major scandal over alleged state-sponsored doping, an important step towards allowing the country and its athletes to compete in international sport.
Many administrators and sportspersons have objected to the move. Asked about this, Rice said, “There will have to be ramifications of what happened earlier but at the same time you cannot withhold an opportunity for athletes who are clean to compete just because they are caught up in the mess.
“That is not fair either and I am sure there are a number of athletes who are clean but losing out because of a few who did dope. So, there should be no doping in sport but clean athletes also have the right to compete.”
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