Our athletes have developed a winning mentality: Sports Minister Anurag Thakur
‘Hard work of athletes and govt support at every level behind this Asian Games success’
India’s performance at the Asian Games was unprecedented. For the first time in history, the Indian contingent crossed the 100-medal mark (107 to be precise). Sports Minister Anurag Thakur feels there were many positives to take back from Hangzhou and one significant change is the “winning mindset” that Indian athletes have displayed. Excerpts from an interview with the sports minister.
What are the reasons you feel our sportspersons were able to produce such historic performance?
In the 2018 Asian Games we had 70 medals and this time we have 107. An increase of 52 percent between two editions and 75 percent increase in gold medals. Of course, it was possible because of the hard work of our athletes and others in the sports ecosystem such as coaches and support staff. What has also brought a change is the vision of our Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi ji to create a sports ecosystem in the country. Now there is constant and timely support at every level --- the grassroots through Khelo India Scheme, at the mid-level through Target Olympic Podium Scheme’s development programme and at the elite level with the TOPS core programme. The other significant change has been the mindset of athletes. They approach the competition with a lot more confidence -- they go there to win, not just to compete.
With the Paris Olympics less than a year away, what are the steps the sports ministry will take to ensure that we continue this forward momentum?
The training of athletes who are likely to represent India in Paris started two years back. We have recently upgraded the facilities at three National Centres of Excellence in Patiala, Bengaluru and Lucknow to provide international-level facilities to our athletes. Besides, we have greatly strengthened our sports science facilities and hired more than 200 experts as High Performance Managers and Directors to improve overall training.
What are your realistic expectations from the Paris Olympics? You think Indian athletes can surpass the Tokyo performance?
It would be difficult to put a figure, but given our level of preparation and how we intend to take it forward, I see a very bright chance for India at the Paris Olympics.
In many sports like shooting, athletics, we saw the next generation of players proving themselves. You think we have developed strong bench strength in core disciplines?
Talent identification is key and we have been able to do that very well and topped it up with a 360-degree support in foreign exposure, diet, training, etc. For this Asian Games alone we have organised 75 foreign exposures in various disciplines and ensured 200 camp days for almost all disciplines. The grassroot identification doubled with nurturing at every level has increased the bench strength.