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Lack of hype helped Kumar: Rana

- A Telegraph Exclusive
- Ace marksman on the successes and failures
Jaspal Rana with his medals at the 06 Doha Asian Games

Calcutta: Jaspal Rana, who made the aam aadmi aware of shooting long before Abhinav Bindra’s gold in the 2008 Olympics, spoke to The Telegraph soon after Vijay Kumar’s silver medal-winning effort in London, on Friday evening.

Rana, winner of multiple gold medals in the Asian Games (plus a gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games), took the call in New Delhi. Incidentally, he runs an academy in Dehradun.

The following are excerpts

Q A silver from Kumar, just a few days after a bronze from Gagan Narang... Your thoughts...

A As an Indian, I’m very happy. Remember, any medal is first the country’s. The silver couldn’t have come at a better time, for we’ve had quite a few setbacks.

Do the two medals make up, in a way, for the failure of Bindra and Ronjan Sodhi?

Dekhiye, you can’t bank on a few individuals all the time. To win a war, you need an army... The media kept focusing on Bindra and Sodhi, which probably distracted them. Nobody bothered about Kumar and see how well he’s performed. There’s no point giving interviews and being on the TV screens, you need to deliver on the range. You’ve got to only concentrate on the job ahead of you and you should be allowed to do that.

What were your expectations when the shooters reached London?

Look, every single shooter earned his/her place... They did so by winning competitions, by proving themselves... Nobody did them a favour. So, on paper, everybody started with the chance of standing on the podium.

You’ve talked about the media... You’re convinced that the lack of hype over Kumar helped him immensely...

Absolutely... He wasn’t attending felicitations and other functions. Did you see a single feature on him on the TV? I didn’t.

Joydeep Karmakar narrowly missed a bronze. How do you rate him?

Karmakar’s good. In the finals, it’s the inner strength or the lack of it which makes you win or lose... Had Bindra made the final of his event (10m Air Rifle), even as the eighth and last qualifier, he could still have moved right to the top... He’s that strong within... Getting back to Karmakar, the best in the world are out there, so losing in an Olympic finals is no disgrace.

Why did Bindra fail?

Bindra knows the answer best... But you’ve got to remember that he’s human and not a machine... He pulled off a miracle in Beijing, but miracles don’t keep happening just like that. Moreover, you’ve got to appreciate that, because of the gold in 2008, Bindra was under enormous pressure. No other Indian athlete went to London with so much pressure.

And, why did Sodhi falter?

In my view, Sodhi became a victim of media hype... He was under far too much pressure. We all know that the Board exams are very important, but if you keep reminding children about that, then they’re bound to begin worrying... There’s a negative effect, the children get intimidated by the exams. Sodhi should have been allowed his space and not projected as a favourite for a medal.

What’s your message to our shooters?

I’d like to remind them that hard work does pay off, sooner or later. Also, everybody can improve. This holds true for the system as well.

Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver (double trap) in the 2004 Olympics, in Athens, but your feats brought shooting to the centre stage in the 1990s itself...

Everybody has played a role... I regard (the late) Dr Karni Singh as the father of Indian shooting... He did his bit, then I did something and Col. Rathore made his contribution... Bindra, too, has done his bit... Narang as well. I can’t try and take a bigger chunk of the credit.

Well, who is your favourite shooter?

Bindra.

What goes into the making of a champion marksman?

An excellent support base, besides the shooter’s own skill... Shooters need the best guns, the best ammo, the best facilities. Woh sab chahiye. If that’s lacking, we won’t have champions. I’d like to add that Union sports minister Ajay Maken has been extending all support and that’s praiseworthy.

Would you have done better had the facilities and the sponsorship been of today’s level when you started off?

I was happy with what I got... This generation of shooters should be happy with what they have. I have absolutely no regrets.

The final one... You were with the BJP, but are with the Congress now... Do you intend contesting another election (after losing in the 2009 general elections on a BJP ticket)?

(Laughs) Of course, at the right time. I’m an active Congressman.