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India definitely has athletic potential, and the London Olympics 2012 has proven the point! With a haul of six medals, it is the most successful Olympics ever for India. This was in no small thanx to the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ). Four of India’s six medallists were supported by OGQ – enough reason for their enthusiasm being doubled, and the many celebrations that followed. A stupendous achievement considering the lack of world class training facilities, and general encouragement for our young Indians to pursue professional sports. We have a teeming population of 1.2 billion, amongst which there are likely thousands of candidates with potential for Olympic stardom, if properly nurtured and trained.
Yes, it’s definitely true – we need to move beyond cricket fever and embrace the adrenalin rush of other sports. We need the magic of our own Usain Bolts so we can feel proud as they effortlessly cross the finish line, and take the Indian flag leaps and bounds ahead in both stature and sport.
Amitabh Bachchan was right at the OGQ celebratory dinner when he said that the days of the World Wars are (hopefully) over. Today we fight matches on sports platforms, like the Commonwealth Games and The Olympics. And you might ask where heroes like Vijay Kumar (silver medallist in the 25m rapid fire pistol), Mary Kom (bronze in women’s 51kg boxing category), Gagan Narang (Bronze medallist in the 10m air rifle event), and Saina Nehwal (bronze medalist in women’s singles badminton) get their thrust and sponsorships from. It’s the inspired non-profit organization – Olympic Gold Quest.
India really does need more focus on its sports. Saina Nehwal aptly points out- “Unlike China, where every village has a stadium and Olympic champions coach aspirants, we don’t even have the infrastructure and financial aid is very-very difficult. For every six Chinese players competing at the Olympics, there is just one me from India”.
I first got acquainted to OGQ through good friends Niraj and Minal Bajaj, who have devoted their time, energy, and intellect to the cause. They are joined by the stellar co-founding team of sports stars including; Geet Sethi (eight time World Billiards Champion), Prakash Padokone (All England Badminton Champion), Deepika Padukone (who is always there to motivate the sportsmen), Viswanathan Anand (Chess World Champion), Shitin Desai, Leander Paes (Grand Slam Champion, Olympic Bronze Medallist), Niraj Bajaj (National Table Tennis Champion & Arjuna Awardee), and Ramaraj – to bring it where it is today. India had its biggest ever medal haul of six thanks to their support, and the organization is determined that the number will be bettered four years from now in Rio de Janeiro.
OGQ key funder, Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla feverishly urges other corporates to sponsor sports stars, saying “Every year we’ve been coming back with more medals since The Olympic Gold Quest made it their business to ‘make it all happen’.
Rashesh Shah only strengthens the message when he says “OGQ instils pride in our sporting capability and inspires athletes to aim for medals in the Olympics. The support that they provide and the inspiration, confidence and pride they instil in the athletes is commendable. Edelweiss is very proud to be associated and the Mary Kom medal victory in London is a great boost to us all. In the coming years OGQ will support more and more athletes in their quest for Olympic gold.” He is a firm supporter of OGQ since the beginning.
I’d be lying if I didn’t grant that Mary Kom is my hot favourite. I cried through both her matches with pride, anticipation, prayer and hope. There she was on stage last week at the celebratory OGQ party, with her understated husband Onler Kom, while the audience shrieked in delight as she sang for them with unaffected humility. Their childlike delight in all the attention, nearly unbelieving of it all, endeared the thronging audience, and of course the clincher was when she apologized to India for not bringing back the Gold. She said she owes it all to OGQ, “who supported me since the time I had no sponsors. Their sport science team made sure that I moved from weight category 46 kg to 51 kg and found world class coach Charles Atkinson to get me to fight better against taller and stronger opponents”. Rashesh Shah – main sponsor for Mary Kom through OGQ – so aptly told me that evening, that Kom was an inspiration not only as an athlete but as a human being too.
The party to celebrate her and the other OGQ heroes at the Taj Crystal Room was thronging with Bombay’s ‘set’, unabashedly pushing to be photographed with the sports heroes. Yes, even Amitabh Bachchan was emotionally stirred when the winners came onto stage to receive their trophies from him, and he unequivocally offered his support to the OGQ board, heroes in their own right. The OGQ success is what probably motivated them to announce the scholarship programmes for six youngsters across two disciplines — badminton and shooting. BM Rahul (12, badminton), Kartikey Gulshan Kumar (12, badminton), Rahul Yadav (14, badminton), Siril Varma (12, badminton), Saurav Dalvi (15, rifle shooting) and Malaika Goel (14, pistol shooting).
I was curious to know how much does it take to sponsor one athlete? Niraj Bajaj enlightens me-
“The cost of training one Olympic aspirant by OGQ ranges from Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 20 lakhs per annum depending on the sport and the seniority of the player. A person who wishes to make a small contribution to OGQ can simply log onto the website www.olympicgoldquest.in and click on the contribution link and contribute via your debit/credit card. If you wish to send a cheque, the cheque can be made in the name of ‘Foundation for Promotion of Sports and Games’ to be sent to the OGQ, 3 Neel Kamal, Gandhibagh Society, Law Garden, Ahmadabad, 380006 and contributions are eligible for 50% tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income tax Act.”
OGQ bridges the gap between what the Government provides, and what is required by the athletes to help make them the BEST in their sport. A towering challenge indeed, which needs the best coaches, the best training facilities (whether in India or abroad), and the best equipment. OGQ has also put into place a team of world class doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists and mental trainers to help our athletes compete against the best in the world.
The biggest impact of OGQ however, is in creating a personal bonds, and in building trust with the athletes. Only then can OGQ improve the performance of the athlete. They ensure that there are mentors for all the athletes and there are regular motivation sessions for them conducted by sports legends, just like the founders of OGQ; Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone.
- Nisha JamVwal
Tags:Amitabh BachchanDeepika PadukoneGagan NarangLeander PaesMary KomNiraj BajajPrakash PadukoneSaina NehwalVijay KumarViren RasquinhaViswanathan Anand