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The Rediff Special/ND Prashant in Doha
Rathore will win the gold: Al-Maktoum
December 04, 2006
India's Olympic silver medalist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, not only has a million expectations to meet, but also has been slated by the best in the business to take back a gold medal from the Asian Games in Doha.
Olympic gold medalist Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum is confident that Rathore will win the doubles trap event in his absence.
"He looks focused and confident. If he gets in there, concentrates hard and forgets about the rest of the world focusing on his technique, I don't think why he shouldn't be there," said al-Maktoum of the ace Indian shooter in Doha on Saturday. "The only one that can put him off is himself."
The two have shared a fierce rivalry on the shooting range, but the 43-year-old al-Maktoum has also played mentor to the Indian off it. Rathore trained with al-Maktoum for 15 days in Dubai before heading to Doha.
"He (Rathore) is like my brother. We have great respect for each other. We share a good chemistry; we talk about shooting, our family and friends.
"However, when we wear our shooting gear and enter the range we are rivals, even during the training. We play a clean competition with a clean heart. Whenever he scores a fifty in practice, I always stand there and support him. But, we fight for each point when we are competing against each other.
"To be frank, he was with me in Dubai. He discussed a few things with me and I gave my opinion. He was happy with it and I see a champion in him. He got it all and he actually needs no more support or help from me."
Despite winning the gold in Athens and training hard for the Asian Games, al-Maktoum will not represent the United Arab Emirates for the Games because he is upset with the step-motherly treatment to his sport.
"You are clever enough to ask the question and you also know the answer. I am all on my own, I have been training on my own and even the medals that I win, belong to me first and my family. After all that, it is for the country and it doesn't matter whether they reward me for that or no. I won at Athens and I celebrated; for me that's important."
He further adds, "My country is spending a lot of money on horse racing and football, but people like us who are medal prospects at the highest level of sports like Olympics, are left out."
So has the champion called it quits?
Good friend Rathore is confident that he will be back soon. Al-Maktoum is also training and eyeing the Olympics, revealed the Indian.
"He (Maktoum) is just a bit cross with his country. I know him, he is a fierce fighter. He will be back soon and is training hard. I will be missing him here," said Rathore in an interview with Gulf Times recently.
Al-Maktoum, however, seems to have made up his mind.
"I have lot of respect for the Asian Games, as here too, there are some world-class shooters. I have promised myself that I will never take part in any competition.
"If you ask Rathore maybe he will say, `he is joking or lying' for he has seen me shooting high scores better than what I did at the Olympics. But the fact is I am not mentally prepared after seeing the way we have been given the cold shoulder. I don't have the hunger to win."More Specials