Exclusive: India expecting double-digit medals tally at Olympics, says Batra

Indian badminton star PV Sindhu won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (AFP)
Indian badminton star PV Sindhu won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (AFP)

Dubai - Boxers, shooters and shuttlers are India’s brightest medal prospects



by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 22 Jun 2021, 9:46 PM

Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, president of the Indian Olympic Association, is brimming with confidence ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Boxers, shooters and shuttlers are India’s brightest medal prospects, but Batra backed each and every Indian athlete to give their best and return with their best-ever Summer Games medals tally.

India’s best-ever Olympics performance came at the 2012 London Games when they won two silver and four bronze medals.

But Batra says Tokyo 2020 (July 23-August 8) could see India return with a double-digit medals tally.

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Batra also opened up on vaccination drive before the Games and why Tokyo’s stricter quarantine rules for athletes from India and 10 other countries are unfair.

Q. The Games were originally scheduled for July-August last year. It’s finally starting next month after a year-long delay due to the Covid-19. How challenging was it to prepare for the delayed Olympics in these unprecedented circumstances?

The difficult period, I would say, was last year in April and May when the pandemic started. It was something new for everyone. So we set the new protocols and new system. From June 2020 until now, everything has been smooth, whatever the problem we had, we handled it. The training for athletes, I would say, has not been affected at all, except for that period (April and May, last year). It’s been smooth for us now.

Q. The Tokyo Olympics will be a whole new experience for all athletes, with more 10,000 people in Games Village where every one has to be in a bubble, following strict protocols...

Yes, for an Olympics, it’s the first experience. They (athletes) will be restricted to the village, or the practice venue or the Games venue. These are unprecedented times and unprecedented decisions. I think everyone has to get adjusted to it and it’s going to be a level playing field for everyone. You have to just stay in the village and go to your venue and come back. But it’s going to be same for everyone.

Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, president of the Indian Olympic Association.  (AFP file)
Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, president of the Indian Olympic Association. (AFP file)

Q. Have all the Olympic-bound Indian athletes and officials been vaccinated?

I would say 90 per cent of the athletes and officials have been double vaccinated till now. There was some delay because some of them had Covid and, you know, they had to wait for two or three weeks to take the shot. So I think by first week of July, all our athletes and officials will be double vaccinated. That would be done, 100 per cent.

Q. The Olympic organisers have imposed stricter quarantine rules for athletes from India and 10 other countries after their arrival in Tokyo. For the first three days, they cannot interact or train with other athletes from other teams. They also need to take Covid test everyday in the first week. Is it going to disturb the preparations of Indian athletes?

Look, this is the time for athletes to go towards their peak mode as they are aiming to give their best performance. And putting a three-day hurdle in that, I would say, is not good for the athletes. I don’t know why India and 10 other countries have been singled out when every other country goes through the normal process. So that’s why I have said that it’s very unfair on Indian athletes who will be going through this process because the Indian athletes are already playing/training in bio-bubbles. They have been double vaccinated. So I don’t understand the problem. Why single out these people? They will not be allowed to interact with other athletes. The grounds are never empty, so where will they go to play or train? India have qualified for 17 for 18 different sports. So the grounds are never going to be empty. I find these decisions a bit unfair and harsh for Indian athletes.

Q. You have already written to the Tokyo organisers, expressing these concerns. Are they reconsidering their decision?

They sent us a reply that they were discussing and they would get back to us. But there has been nothing so far.

Q. In terms of medals, what’s your expectations from the Indian athletes in Tokyo. India have strong shooting and boxing teams as well as reigning world badminton champion PV Sindhu who also won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics...

I have always maintained that we would be looking at double-digit medals tally. So I will not single out anyone. I would say I have big expectations from the entire Indian contingent, which is about 120-130 athletes. So we are hoping for a double-digit medals tally. For me every athlete that is going to the Olympics is the best.


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