My Olympic bronze at Atlanta 1996 is the greatest achievement of my sporting career. Nothing can match the Olympics as the best in the world compete.
My success came from the incredible support of my family and precise planning.
People were surprised when I made it as far as I did in 1996 but I had gone into the Games with a year’s solid preparation.
A full year before the Olympics I made the Games a priority over my ranking on the Tour.
I put myself into bigger tournaments to get exposure against the better players and would then go into smaller grade events to get my confidence up by winning some matches. Success, after all, demands sacrifice and commitment.
Of course, the Olympics were a childhood dream and I was nurtured to believe that I must strive for that medal above all else.
Not too many athletes in India have access to the right knowhow that goes into building a champion. A winner is the sum of a number of components and a system. Unfortunately in India that system is missing.
There is no dearth of talent and the facilities have also considerably improved over the years. But basics like a state-of-the-art sports science centre and world-class trainers still elude us. Talent can never be groomed minus these tools.
Then, we are not being able to use our own achievers well. Very few successful athletes in India come back to coach the next generation. It’s not that they don’t want to, I just feel we do not have a setup that encourages them to. One sport that has done that successfully is cricket.
In fact, the BCCI is one sports body that is actively investing in its future players by trying to bring in sports medicine experts and exposing young players to systematic training techniques. Cricket’s success is greatly aided by its ability to attract former greats for nurturing future champs. Other sports need to do the same.