Not many, including the media, gave Vijay Kumar much of a chance in the build up to the Games. Not surprisingly, the 26-year-old armyman was shooting from the lip after proving a lot of people wrong.
The world saw him as a calm young man, unflinching under pressure, unflustered by loss, unexcited by victory. As HT caught up with India’s second ever individual Olympic silver medallist, a day after he emulated another bloke in olive RVS Rathore, a rather articulate man came to the fore — relaxed, relieved and even a touch hurt. But unlike fixed on the target as they generally are, his sparkling eyes were busy scanning the shelves at the Westside Mall near the Village. Excerpts:
How is the feeling now that you have won silver?
I am relaxed. It’s mission accomplished. I slept well and long last night. There were no worries, no tension at all.
Back to your room, when you were alone, did you for once think it was a dream?
I was with my friends till late in the night. But yes, after going to bed, I got up again, took a look at the medal and then went back to sleep.
What changes have you noticed since winning the medal?
Nothing much, just that I went to sleep really late. I was my usual self, chilling out with my friends in the Village. Had dinner late and then crashed. Yes, there was one more thing different: I didn’t play pool last night as I was too busy with friends. But tonight I think normal services will resume. I will be playing pool once again.
What about once you go back to India…
Once I am back home, then I think I will get to feel the real big change around me. Winning an Olympic medal is a very big deal back home. There will be public gatherings, functions, felicitations. I only pray to god that all that do not get into my head. I want to stay the way I am. This is not my personal achievement. My family, friends and wishes of everyone back home got me here.
What about your future in the Army?
I already have a promotion due on the basis of seniority. Even before coming here for the Olympics, I told my commanding officer that if I do not get the promotion when I am back, I will leave the army. I will wait for two-three weeks after I get back home and by then if they don’t promote me, I will leave the army. Moreover, after the Olympic silver medal they should give me a commission.
Does anything else disappoint you?
Before this, I had a number of international medals, including the Commonwealth and the Asian Games. I was awarded the Arjuna a couple of years ago. But what disappoints me most, is that I am yet to receive due recognition from my state. Last year I wrote to the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh and asked him why despite winning so many medals, I have been deprived of the state’s sports honour (Parshuram Award). Now, there is no bigger sporting achievement left. Do I need to prove myself more?
Was a medal on your mind when you checked into the Village?
We are all here to win. I was also among the potential medal winners. For me the most important thing was to give of my best. I kept telling myself that if I do my very best everything else would fall into place. When it comes to winning a medal, luck plays a crucial role.
Did you feel bad that people did not consider you an Olympic medal prospect even though you believed you could do it?
The media is to be blamed for this. I have performed earlier also. But if the media did not highlight or promote me, that’s not my fault. I think all those who did not consider me a medal prospect realised their mistake.
Did it hurt you or make you feel jealous that others got more attention?
I am a human after all. It did hurt, but only for a while. I made myself believe that I had to work harder. But I was never jealous because others got a better deal.
What about your marriage plans?
Where I come from, it’s normal to get married real early. Even my father forwarded me a proposal of marriage when I won medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. But I had clearly told him that I was not interested. I told him that I would let him know when I am ready.
I want my younger brother to get married first, probably by this year. But I need some more time. I have to first see where my job takes me and only then I will think of settling down.