Olympic Gold Quest waiting for September IOC vote on wrestling

Mumbai: A non-profit sports foundation started by Indian sports legends Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi is keeping its fingers crossed ahead of the September full session of the International Olympic Committee when wrestling`s fate would be decided for the 2020 Games.

The ancient sport is grappling with two other disciplines - squash and baseball/softball - for survival with the 125th IOC session in Beunos Aires voting to include one of the three for the 2020 Games programme.

Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) has currently added 20-year- old freestyle grappler Parveen Rana into its fold to support him for the next Olympic Games in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but any decision to add more wrestlers would depend on whether wrestling retains its place for the 2020 Games, the foundation`s Chief Executive officer, Viren Rasquinha, said.

"We have just taken in a senior athlete whom we are grooming for the 2016 Olympics. September is the (IOC) vote. If wrestling is confirmed for 2020, we would also be looking for young wrestlers. We are waiting for the vote as it does not make sense to support a younger athlete for 2020 when we don`t even know if it`s (wrestling) there. If it`s there, yes (we will look out for more)," Rasquinha said.

The former India hockey captain said the OGQ`s mission was to spot the right talent, gauge his/her potential to be a champion at the Olympic level and extend support.

"Tomorrow if I see an athlete in table tennis, swimming, tennis, squash or golf and if we feel they have the calibre and potential, we will support them. It`s about seeing the right talent to support.

"Obviously these are potential Olympic champions and there are certain benchmarks that need to be fulfilled in order for us to support and take them to that level," he said.

"We also have to justify (the spending) to our funders. I need to look them in the eye and tell them that if we support this athlete he/she genuinely has a chance (to win). Finally, whether they win it or not is a different question," the 32-year-old added.

OGQ has recently added two archers, Jayanta Talukdar and Deepika Kumari, to the list of sports persons it extends support to, and Rasquinha said the foundation looked at different ways to boost their performance.

"The idea is to ensure that both Deepika and Talukdar get world class coaching and equipment. The general misconception is that archery is a rudimentary sport, but it`s a highly technical sporting discipline.

"A few other areas we are focusing on is giving them international exposure - for training as well as competition. The physical aspect of the sport has been under-estimated in archery. You feel not much fitness is required (to participate in archery) but they (archers) suffer a lot of shoulder and back injuries because of the weight of the equipment.

"A physiotherapist is needed to be with them all the time. A mental psychologist`s help is also required," he said.

Rasquinha said the key to future success was to learn from the mistakes that affected the archers` performance in the London Games last year and not allow them to be repeated.

"The mistakes of London are not to be repeated. They are talented archers. At the highest level of sport even a small area in which you are lacking will be exposed."

OGQ also supports three teenaged girls who are very talented archers, said Rasquinha, adding, in all, the foundation supported 19 such athletes between the age group of 11 and 17 out of the 50 athletes overall under its wings.

"OGQ is also supporting three young scholarship players (archers) aged 13-14 years, one girl from Jharkhand, one from Sikkim and one girl from Pune. They also need good levels of coaching and that`s something we are looking at."

Of the six medallists for India at the London Games, four were supported by OGQ but the foundation does not want to rest on its laurels.

"In London four out of six Indian medallists were supported by OGQ but we don`t want to rest on our laurels. We have to plan ahead and every year there are big events. Next year there are the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games are coming up and we need to prepare them quickly, efficiently and give them the best possible support," said the hockey Olympian.

Though OGQ gets good support from corporate India, Rasquinha wanted more financial help as the foundation had added 20 additional athletes to its list since the London Games.

"Corporate support has increased and improved but not to the level we want it to be. Since the London Games we have inducted 20 more athletes and today the number of athletes we support stands at 50. The funding requirement is much more now. We want corporate India`s support because their funding will help us support more and more athletes.

"And support from the common sports fan is a little bit disappointing. There is a lot of emotion but there is a gap between emotion and contribution. It`s easy to criticise that Indian sports is lacking this and that," he said.

"But we want people to come forward and actually make a difference by contributing (financially) as everyone`s contribution makes a big difference towards buying new equipment, shuttle cocks, shoes etc," he concluded.