It begins with conquering what overwhelms you. For a first-time Olympian, that test happens at every step of the way — sometimes all of a sudden, maybe when he/she sees the accreditation card coming out of the printer at the airport. To see their names on it with the credentials ‘Olympic Athlete’ can literally overwhelm them. But, you need to stay calm, because that’s the state in which you can deliver your best.
But former India hockey striker Jagbir Singh counters that with an interesting inference — that this contingent is full of young performers who have already won medals at the international stage. They are the world number 1s, 2s and so on. That was not the case when he played the Olympics – in 1988 and 1992.
It’s a big difference, a striking one, especially for a country that’s not a sporting powerhouse yet.
Sports physio John Gloster adds more to it in his comments to PTI, countering those who believe the pandemic threw athletes off. He believes the athletes will be more resilient, mentally prepared, unlike ever before. And he reasons that around solid logic.
The pandemic allowed the athletes time to “to build and work more on the mental side of the game.” They never got that amount of time for mental training ever before.
Gloster has a point, and he saw that happening from closer quarters, while working with the likes of badminton players B Sai Praneeth and Chirag Shetty, fencer Bhavani Devi, swimmer Sajan Prakash and discus-thrower Kamalpreet Kaur. All of them are in Tokyo.
So what does the pulse of the athletes feel like, as they come closer to a shot at Olympic glory? TimesofIndia.com asked that question to some of them.
These are their replies…
“My vision as an Olympic debutant is to do my personal best and win gold. I take the Olympics also as my next event; hence, it should be very good. My gut feeling says gold medals are possible in all events (10m AP, 10m Mixed AP, 25m Pistol), especially the 25m gold. I believe in hard work and will enjoy. Rest is up to God.”
“Definitely experience is something which you cannot buy off the shelf and is priceless in sport as it is in all aspects of life. Experience can also make you fearless actually. So yes, I will have the advantage of experience.”
“There are no worries or there is nothing to feel relieved about actually. There is a job at hand and the focus is completely on it. Yes, I am thankful that we were able to train and prepare well ahead of the Olympics. At one stage last year that had been a worry.”
DIVYANSH SINGH PANWAR
“My brain and heart are synchronised. ‘Jaise Arjun ko ped pe sirf chidiya ki aankh dikhayi di, waise hi mere dil aur dimag me perform karna hai’ (like Arjun in the Mahabharat could see only the eye of the bird while taking aim, similarly my heart and mind are in sync). Thinking to be a game-changer and learning to be calm in the mind.
“When we look at our team, then there is not a very big difference between us and those (top) teams. Earlier the gap between us and the European nations seemed bigger; but now when we play them, that difference seems smaller. If we continuously work on the finer details, we can beat them; they are not unbeatable. We have to stay a step ahead of the top teams.
GRAHAM REID (Men’s Team Coach)
“You always think you need to do more and you run around thinking we got to do this and got to do that. That has been the same for every Olympics, every World Cup I have ever been involved with. The coach always feels like this. That’s a normal feeling.
“I talk about zooming out & zooming in, and zooming out is the big picture. The big picture for us is that we want to be jumping onto that podium at the end of it all. But to get there, you need to do a lot of things and there are a lot of series and steps, each quarter, each game as we play to get to the quarterfinals. Then, if you win the quarters, anything is possible.”
MC MARY KOM
“Memories (of 2012 bronze) do not make me nostalgic. They make me more determined and resolved in my aim and desire to win gold at the Olympics in Tokyo. I will give it my best shot.”
“My Father was a National-level Kabbadi player and it was his dream to see me play at the Olympics. There was a time when I felt like leaving boxing, but my father and my entire family’s faith kept me going through tough times. As the Olympics are approaching, I feel very emotional and happy that I will be fulfilling my late father’s dream. I know I have it in me to beat anyone on a given day. I want to win a medal for my country and my family.”
“I grew up watching the famous boxing culture in Bhiwani, since I was a small child, and it was my dream to win an Olympic medal. It has been a really long and hard journey for me and I am really Iooking forward to winning a medal for my country and make the nation proud.”
“I missed out on qualifying for the Olympics in 2012 and 2016; it hurt me a lot. Then, I burnt my hand and thought I would never play at the Olympics in my lifetime. I have worked really hard to reach here and I don’t take this privilege for granted. I know what it means to me and my family. Everything has been going well for me right now and I left no stone unturned in my preparations. I can see myself on the podium in Tokyo.”
B SAI PRANEETH
“Honestly, I am very happy and excited that I will get to play badminton after such a long gap and the fact that it is the Olympics makes it even more special. It’s been a long time since our last tournament and it has also been a long wait for the Olympics. I have missed the feeling of competition all these months. I am looking forward to giving my best in every match and not taking any pressure thinking about the result and the big stage.”
“We are giving our absolutely everything in training and we are also aware of the fact that people have expectations from us and that makes us more determined. We are very excited for the Olympics and looking forward to winning a medal for our country.”
I know that I perform best when I am not thinking too much about the result and expectations. I am someone who really likes to enjoy the game to the fullest with all the emotions and energy, and it won’t be any different this time. I am training hard, eating right and taking care of myself in every possible way so that I give my 200 percent when the time comes.
“I have heard a lot about the Olympics and the feelings attached with it, and I really want to enjoy and experience that in Tokyo. We are confident in our abilities and it is good to have so much support from everyone. We are looking forward to making our nation proud.”
ACHANTA SHARATH KAMAL
Sport: Table Tennis
“The confidence that I have is mostly from the last couple of years, especially from the 2018 Asian Games when we won two bronze medals (men’s team and mixed doubles). That is the confidence-giver, because if you can get a medal at the Asian Games, you can get a medal at the Olympic Games.
“Even though this is going to be my fourth Olympic Games, it’s going to be something new due to the prevailing situation with Covid-19. But at the same time, the ability to understand the pressure, stress and the anxiety that arises at the Olympics is something that will come in handy at this juncture with the experience I have. Getting a medal is going to be tough, but in mixed doubles, we are just three rounds away from a medal.”
Sport: Table Tennis
“Yes, it’s been my childhood dream to participate at the Olympics. Certainly super excited! For me, like I have always said, I just want to go out there, enjoy the sport and give my best on the world’s biggest stage and come out from Tokyo with a lot of memories and with no regrets about not giving out my best. So I’m just going to give everything that I have trained so far in my life and my career, give everything on the table out there and take whatever it results in. I will enjoy playing table tennis.”
“The women did well in Rio and that is a motivating factor for me to do well this time in Tokyo. The experience of playing on LPGA (Tour) for the last five years is invaluable and I think playing more tournaments has always helped my performance historically. So definitely playing on the LPGA before the Olympics has helped me get into the groove. I have played in at least 10-15 tournaments with Covid restrictions, so I’m used to it by now and know how to manage myself.”