iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
Jaipur, September 11, 2013
The nation in general and the sporting fraternity in particular may have been caught off-guard by India's first individual Olympic silver-medallist, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's decision to join politics. But the shooter, who is the reigning national champion in double-trap and can still rattle the best in the world, says he is looking at bigger challenges in life than just winning medals.

"There comes a time in life when you introspect and think what really motivates you. Are they personal achievements or is there something more, which you can do to help a larger cross-section of society. My drive today is not so much personal as it was 10 years ago. I believe I can make a difference to the country.

Bigger mission
"My mission now is far bigger than winning an Olympic medal and I can assure the country that I will do it with utmost sincerity."

Had it been any other sportsperson, he would have thought a thousand times before leaving a sport which has earned him name, fame and glory — and would continue to pay rich dividends for a long time to come — but Rathore says he is different from other athletes.

"I am a lot different from other sportspersons in India. I started out when I was 28, won my Olympic silver (in 2004) when I was 34 and equalled the world record at 42. Not that the motivation was gone, but a larger issue took precedence over personal achievements," Rathore said from Jaipur, where he joined the party and shared the dais with Narendra Modi.

Not out of sight
But will the initiation into politics, spell the end of his shooting career? A man who has never shied away from calling a spade a spade — his skirmishes with the shooting federation being a case in point — Rathore preferred to play with words, which left ample room for conjectures.

"I am right now a national champion and am at the peak of my sporting career where my experience and knowledge of the sport is at the top-most level. But my first priority is nation building, which is all-encompassing. I would continue actively in sport only to inspire others to take up sport," he said.

With the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the Olympic Games in Rio lined up one after the other, will he not push himself to achieve that ultimate goal once again?

"Rewind to 2004, when I won the Olympic silver. At that time winning a medal in the Olympics was unthinkable. Today every participant believes he can win a medal. I would just say that I am partly instrumental in that," said Rathore.

"Today the country needs a decisive leadership. (Narendra) Modi has induced a sense of belief in a nation that had given up on itself. The BJP, as a political party, has done very few years in governance, yet their workers have been working tirelessly at the grassroots. That is the strength of this party and I hope I can render my services here."

With his wife and the shooting fraternity "amply supportive" in his new venture, Rathore concludes that his coming into politics would also bring about a "great amount of improvement in sport".