New Delhi: India would be returning with its best ever medal haul in the Olympics from London, though without a gold in its kitty, prompting Sports Minister Ajay Maken expressing satisfaction with the performance of the athletes and hoping that the country can win 25 medals in 2020 Games.
India had won three medals at the Beijing Games four years ago and the country`s athletes have improved the medal count by two ahead of the final day of competitions at the mega event, and Maken lauded the athletes for their performance.
"If you compare India`s past performance, I think this is India`s best Olympics so far we have ever had. We have improved on all counts," Maken said in an interview.
"You should compare, how many medals India could win except Hockey ever since Olympics started. It was only seven medals. This time alone we have got four medals (at the time of interview)," he said.
"It is not only in comparison to last time, if you take last time and this time together we have won seven medals (at the time of interview) so far as compared to seven medals India ever won since Olympics started.
"By 2020 we can get 25 medals, and this is a achievable target. Out of it, it can be 5 or 10 golds. We cannot specify the number of gold," he added.
Before the start of the final day`s events, India were placed at 56th in the medal tally, with one silver and four bronze.
Maken feels India cannot expect to win more medals when the country has a poor Human Development Index (HDI) and low Per Capita Income.
"As per as Human Development Index is concerned, India is 134th in the world and as per as Per Capita Income is concerned, India is 129th and as of now (at the time of interview) we are 46th in the Olympics. Sport is not only about the number of people. It is not only in terms of total GDP we produce, it is the HDI. All such things do matter," said Maken.
"It`s a big achievement for the athletes and the country. There are only two countries who have worse Human Development Index but are above India in Olympics. All the countries (on top of medal tally) has better HDI or per capita income than India. All such things are related to each other. Any kind of surveys done by any such agencies does not take into account such factors.
"HDI is not politics. HDI is a reality. Whatever it is, the reality is per capita income and HDI play a very important role and it is something that is reflected in the number of medals too," he added.
Asked about Indian hockey team`s dismal performance at the Games, where they finished at the bottom, Maken said, "Last time we did not even compete in Hockey in the Olympics. Thus, this performance is better than last time. Make a comparison to last time rather than looking at the whole Olympic record."
Even though India did not win too many medals, Maken felt the performance of the athletes were commendable.
"Let me point out to a major improvement. This time 81 of our athlete could compete, last time it was only 56. Is it not a big improvement? The number of athletes is up nearly by 25 per cent and the total number of medal is also up by 25 per cent. The Gold medal may yet come. We may even double our medal count," Maken said.
"From 56 athletes to 81 is not a marginal improvement. Are Joydeep Karmakar`s medal miss by a whisker or pistol shootings missing gold just by one point not big achievements? Our athletes have performed superbly.
"Although we have missed medals just by whisker, the athletes have achieved so much. At the World scenario, competing in the Olympics is a big achievement. Straight away you can`t win a gold medal, you have to go step by step," said Maken.
Maken said the government has spent the highest ever sum of money to provide training to the athletes because it expected medal from them.
"We have spent huge amount of money on Vijay Kumar`s training. Not only Vijay Kumar, we have spent huge money on all the medal winners. If we didn`t expect a medal from them, why did we spend the money on them?" he asked.
"All the athletes who have won medals have received special attention and special personalised help. We are not taking any credits, all the credit goes to the players and the coaches. But we provided the best possible help and the maximum help ever. The amount of money spent by the government of India for Olympics training has been the highest ever."
Maken insisted that the athletes have performed well even in those disciplines from which they could not win a medal.
"You should appreciate the fact that it is for the first time in badminton, P Kashyap could reach the quarterfinals and Saina Nehwal could go up to the semifinals. If you compare India with others we still have a long way to go. Lets us compare India with India, the past performance," he said.
"Compared to the five boxers that qualified last time, this time the number was eight. Qualification is not easy. In order to qualify you have to fight the best boxers in the world.
"I agree that if the tennis players had better understanding with each other it would have been better, but still as compared to last time, this time seven of our tennis players have competed. We have managed to give three young players the Olympic experience," he said.
"It is wrong to say that we have put pressure on selectors. Everyone knows that there needs to be a chemistry between doubles players. There has to be some understanding."
Maken feels India has to target some specific sports if the country has to increase its medal count at future Olympics.
"For the future, we need to select a small number of sports rather than spreading thin. The example in this case is Britain, which has selected cycling and now they are in third place," he said.
"Shooting is obviously one of our strong points. Boxing is another strong point. But the problem with shooting and boxing is that the majority of the medals in Olympics, almost 75 per cent of them lies with athletics and aquatics. Thus eventually we should also divert to those areas.
"Archery will also be included but archery has only 4 medals. Wrestling is one of our traditional strongholds, but again have a small number of medals. We need to select one of the three big events. I think we should take up some of the events in athletics," he added.
However, Maken believes only targeting some sports won`t be enough and India has to improve its sports science facilities to do well in future.
"We are very weak in sports sciences, we are very weak in terms of coaches. So unless we improve the sports science setup in our country and have sports coaching Institute, any number of sports, we select is not going to be good enough," he said.
"Well to set up apex bodies, what we have decided in the 12th plan, we will spend Rs 500 crore just to set up a National Institute of Sports Sciences and coaching center of world class.
"We will build up an umbrella which will have smaller institutes in different parts of the Country, where we will like private setup to come. We are already talking to the private players," he added.