Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's popularity in his native State, Rajasthan, is unrivalled. As he walks from one competition arena to the other at the picturesque O.A.S.E.S shooting range on the outskirts of the Pink City, eyes and cameras follow him. In the city for the Asian Clay Championship, the Athens Olympic Games silver-medallist - who reached here only early this morning - looked travel weary but was there at the range firing away and doing what he is best at - shooting down clay birds.
Excerpts from an interview:
There is talk that you have hired an American coach to prepare for the Beijing Olympic Games?
I have reached a stage where we all know a lot about the game. It's now basically giving final touches to my preparations before the Games. Yes, I am working with American Josh Lakatos and hoping to spend as much quality time with him as possible before the Beijing Games. He was in India for some time and I would be leaving for the United States soon… Obviously there is mutual respect between us despite the fact that he is a young guy like me.
At this point in time, you need someone else to analyse your performance and I feel Josh is well suited for that. He would accompany me to all the four World Cups and competitions before the Beijing Games.
Has he trained any other top double-trap shooter in the world?
(Athens Olympic Games gold-medallist) Kuwait's Ahmed-al-Makhtoum too trained with him…in fact he is still training with Josh right now.
How may coaches have you had right from the time you won the Athens silver medal?
Many. I try and learn from every coach. I read articles written by my contemporaries; learn about motivation and other things from sportspersons and coaches of other disciplines. So, for me, everyone who can enrich my mind is a coach.
There are four World Cups lined up before the Olympics. Wouldn't the one coming up in Beijing be the most crucial for you?
I'm looking forward to participating in all the four World Cups…Don't want to single out any particular WC for better performance. From now on, form and rhythm would matter. And all that is going to add bit by bit in the run-up to the Games.
How do you cope with criticism when a poor performance here or there sets the critics baying for blood?
I am a simple guy trying to do well in my sport. If people are talking behind your back it means you are ahead of them. People don't even have an iota of knowledge of what an Olympic athlete goes through. Let them say whatever they want. I will continue to keep giving my best for the country.