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P T Usha

Time we learn from Rathore

August 20, 2004

First of all, my heartiest congratulations to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for achieving a feat that all of us could not for so many years. Some of us dreamt of it, but only 'Majorsaab' could turn it into reality. At the shooting range in Athens, Rathore not only won the silver medal, but also removed the inferiority complex that every Indian was suffering from till now. Now that I go to Athens in a couple of days, I will walk around with my head high. India, too, have a place in the medals tally.

It is quite natural that Rathore will now be showered with gifts and monetary incentives from all over the country. For the kind of success he has achieved, the ace shooter deserves every bit of it. After all, he is the first sportsperson in independent India to earn the second berth in an individual sport in the Olympics.

At the same time, I would like to say a few things in this regard. It has always been the practice in India to jump on to the bandwagon once a sportsperson achieves something in the international arena. It has not been any different with Rathore. No one, barring his employers, the Indian Army, bothered to give him a second look when he won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games or the bronze in the World Championships. He simply fought it out alone, worked hard, and won the medal for his motherland.

Now, those in corporate houses as well as in government are running after him with bagfuls of money and trying to bask in his glory. They should have come forward to help him out when he needed it most. I read in the newspapers that Rathore had to run from pillar to post to get funds for his preparatory trip to Europe even after winning the Commonwealth gold. Being a sportsperson, I fully realise the agony he had to go through. Where were these people then who are now offering him money and residential flats?

Some of the newspapers quoted Rathore as saying on Wednesday that he hoped the medal he won should help the sport progress in India. I fully agree. While I have no objection to anyone felicitating our shooting hero as many times as they want to, I also appeal to them to spare a thought for those upcoming Rathores who need support at crucial junctures of their career.

What really impressed me about Rathore was his ability to remain focused during his event. From the kind of concentration he showed, I could guess that unlike many other Indians who go to the Olympics for the sake of participation only, Rathore was determined to win a medal. Not many of us could show the same mentality all these years.

Bahadur Singh on Wednesday was an ample example of it. The shot putter simply came up with a pathetic performance. I am not going into the controversy of whether he deliberately fouled all his three attempts, but will only like to say that he could have done better. He had achieved the qualifying mark of 20.40m back in India and a similar performance would have taken him into the final. Instead, I am afraid to say, he remained content to only participate in the Olympics.

This is a mentality I have noticed among many other past and present Indian Olympians. Taking part in the Olympics is the end of the road for them. They work hard to clear the qualifying marks and get into the squads, but do little thereafter. They never even dream of winning an Olympic medal, leave alone trying for it.

But it is heartening to see that things are slowly changing for good. While Leander and Mahesh are once again in line for a medal, the women weightlifters and archers also fought a tooth-and-nail battle before losing out at the last moment. Winning and losing are part of sports, but to give it away without putting up a decent fight can never be accepted. Time we all start following Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

Previous column: Anju can do it!

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