Sportstar recently organised their flagship event known as Sportstar National Sports Conclave which was titled as ‘Eyeing the Paris Podium”. The expert panel had long jumper Murali Shreeshankar, rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil, hockey star Rani Rampal, Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medallist in badminton, Pramod Bhagat and World Boxing Champion Nikhat Zareen.
The discussion was mainly regarding the upcoming Paris Olympics next year, to which Shreeshankar said the Olympics in Paris will be special. He highlighted that Indian athletics is gradually making its name in global events. He feels that Neeraj Chopra’s gold in Tokyo has negated the mental block among Indian athletes. “In an event like athletics, we didn’t have any medals until 2020. We have come very close with PT Usha and Anju (Bobby George) ma’am’s performance, but with Neeraj (Chopra) bhaiya removing that mental block with that gold medal in Tokyo, I am sure Paris 2024 will be something special for athletics and Indian sports,” the long jumper shared his thoughts.
Meanwhile, World Champion Nikhat Zareen has no prior Olympics experience just like Shreeshankar. She highlighted that she is a bit nervous listening to the stories of other Olympians. Nikhat recently won her second World Championship gold medal in the 50kg category in New Delhi. She became only the second Indian female boxer to own two World Championship golds after MC Mary Kom.
“I don’t have any idea of how the Olympics is. If I qualify for Paris, that will be my first experience. The stories they are sharing now are making me a bit nervous. But I am mentally strong enough to tackle the challenge. So, I am working really hard,” shared the 26-year-old boxer.
Former Indian hockey team captain Rani Rampaul shared stories of agony as the Indian Women’s team failed to clear the qualifiers in 2008 and 2012. They gradually improved and delivered a fantastic performance in Tokyo, missing the bronze by a whisker. Rampaul shares the stories from her experience as she has seen the highs and the extreme lows with the Indian Women’s hockey team.
“I started my Olympic journey with 2008 qualification. I was so young back then. I saw my seniors crying when they lost the 2008 qualifiers. I didn’t understand why they were crying. Now I know. Because there may not be a next time for a few of them. In 2012, we lost again in the Olympic qualifier. I thought that was it. You feel alone. There was no support. In 2016, we qualified but finished 12th (last). That was a totally different experience. After Tokyo – where the Indian team just lost out on the bronze medal – we feel we can take on others,” Rani Rampaul revealed.
Overall Indian sports is doing much better and our athletes are gradually making name in global events. Most of them hope to represent India at the Paris Olympics with an eye on the podium. While many may not get their hands on the elusive medals, it is the experience of the Olympics that matters the most in sports.