There is no better indication of a person having achieved stardom than when his/her name becomes top of mind. “Have you come for the PV Sindhu show?’’ asked a staffer of the Taj Mahal soon after we entered the lobby of the hotel on Wednesday night.
“Is this the same function hosted by Olympic Gold Quest?’’ I countered teasingly. He looked briefly puzzled, then had a Eureka moment and exclaimed with a smile, “Yes!’’ I don’t think OGQ would mind the order being mixed up: If anything, it reflects their success.
OGQ emerged from distress. I recall a meeting with Geet Sethi over lunch at the Bombay Gymkhana about 12-13 years back when he talked about the frustration of Indian athletes for lack of facilities and support from the government. Who would have known it better?
Geet was, in hindsight, picking the brains of various people on how the situation could be improved. In Prakash Padukone he found a kindred soul and OGQ soon crystallised, with Viren Rasquinha as CEO.
Over the next few years formidable sports names Niraj Bajaj, Leander Paes and Vishwanathan Anand joined the Board of Directors, which also includes four others with strong management backgrounds. It’s a crack team that understands sport and has devoted time, energy and resources to giving Indian sport a fillip, as five Olympic medals, four in London in 2012 and Sindhu’s at Rio would testify.
OGQ -- and similar not-for-profit organisations that came later -- have tried to bridge the chasm left by government apathy, maladministration and misunderstanding of sport. After the disappointing performance at Rio the government has promised swift improvement. I don’t buy that and hope that OGQ (and others) ignore overtures from the state continue their sterling work.
Coming back to Wednesday’s felicitation, stardom sits easily on PV Sindhu. She has charm and poise. But even more appealing is her candour. “It can only get tougher from here. A lot of hard work lies ahead,’’ she said in a chat with some guests.
In that I read growing ambition and determination. The Olympics silver medal has given her a psychological boost and whetted her hunger to succeed. Whether Sindhu can better her Rio performance only time will tell, but she has the Tokyo Games in her sights already.
This would have been evident from even her coach Pullela Gopichand’s statements immediately after the women’s final at Rio. Minutes after the classic contest, he was already musing about going a notch higher four years later, and that work towards that objective must begin quickly.
While she is on a Bharat Darshan, as it were, and soaking in the accolades, I understand Sindhu’s training has already begun, the diet is being strictly monitored, everything that will ensure the momentum gained at Rio is not squandered is already in place. Except, of course, she now has her cellphone back!
How and why Gopi made her surrender her cellphone three months before the Olympics has been a subject of much debate and amusement. Was this just whimsicality or something deeper?
Geet Sethi, who paid tribute to Gopi for providing rich insights during his visit to Mumbai, said that sometimes it takes something seemingly minor, but vital, to trigger off a massive change in an athlete’s performances.
I don’t know if he was referring to the cellphone matter, but on the face of it, this did make a difference to Sindhu’s Olympics campaign. It was a tough decision, not easy to enforce. Take away a cellphone from a 21-year-old and – as anybody dealing with them would testify -- you have a rebel without a pause on hand.
Maybe there is some heavy-duty sports psychology at play here that Gopi would like to explain. He has been both a doer and a seer. He is, after all, a Khel Ratna and Arjuna and now even a Dronacharya, all rolled into one: The only one of his kind in the country!