Born in a country that doesn't boast a prolific gymanstic history, Raj Bhavsar has come a long way. The US gymnast, born in India, won a team bronze during the Beijing Olympics. On his first trip to India, Bhavsar terms this one as his first “official” one.
caught up with Bhavsar to learn about his experiences in India.
After leaving the country with your parents, are you coming back for the first time?
I have been here three times, the last being in 2003. But this is my first trip in connection with gymnastics. So, I'd call it my first official trip to India.
You met upcoming gymnasts in Allahabad and also spoke to the coaches at the National Sports Academy. How did it go?
I went to Allahabad to seek two reasons --- to share my experience with the kids and also learn a few tricks from them.
Was the trip successful?
The students received me as a hero and were so excited that they couldn't stop asking about my career. They also showed great enthusiasm to learn. Their passion rejuvenated my love for the game. Having to work with limited resources and yet giving it your best, is really a morale booster.
India is yet to make a mark in gymnastics on the global stage
All countries start slowly, even USA struggled during the 1980s, but we continued to fight on. The important part is to have the will to work. In India's case, it will take at least 10 years to reach at a competitive level. But the talent is evident.
You also met officials of the Gymnastics Federation of India. Were there talks of you coaching here?
The talks were informal as we were meeting for the first time. The option was placed on the table but nothing can be said as of now. But I do believe that outside help will be useful. Even USA takes help from Russian coaches.
Your reaction to the racial abuse towards Indians in Australia.
It is sad to see such violence against Indians in Australia. As an athlete coming from a similar background, I feel a lot for the victims. Racial abuse is rampant in many parts of the world and drastic measures need to be taken.
USA also has a prolonged history on this front. As a sportsman, did you also face any such abuse?
It is true that USA has a racist history and it still exists, but in a very subtle way. As a sportsman I never experienced any direct abuse, but I confirm anything that happens behind my back. It is always better not too think much about such things.