CHENNAI:The Marina Beach is home to a lot of things. Lip-smacking milagai bajjis (chilli fritters), important destination for Olive Ridley turtles during their hatching season in the winter... and Gagan Narang’s first training centre.
“What a lot of people don’t know is I was born in Chennai,” Narang, who is in the city as part of an Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) programme, told reporters on Friday. “In fact, my first shots were at the Marina Beach (referring to shooting balloons with pellets),” he recalled.
Narang, who was the first athlete to be signed up by OGQ (they have 101 now) in 2007, also spoke about that initial meeting with Geet Sethi. “I was training in Dadar at the time. And there I met with Rakesh Khanna, who gave me a (gold) medal. In it the words ‘Olympic Gold Quest’ were visible. You are our first athlete and this is for you. And that’s how it really started.”
Sethi, who is one of the co-founders and 10 directors at OGQ, spoke at length about how he wanted ‘OGQ to be a movement’ of the people. “I had started OGQ in 2001 but I hadn’t raised a single penny till 2007. And that’s when I met Shitin Desai. When I told him that I was yet to raise a penny but I have an athlete in mind, he gave me a cheque for `25 lakhs. From that till today – Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa were out 100th and 101st athletes – it’s been special,” he said.
While they recognise the effort done by the government in helping talented athletes, OGQ aims to bridge the gap between what they provide and what is required.
“It’s not frustrating at all becuse we don’t deal with them (government). We don’t ask them for money. They are doing a lot and they are clearly spending money. But I think there is a gap between what these guys (athletes) need and what is delivered to them. So we just come in and try to supplement that. It could be a gap of 1 per cent or 20 per cent. We try and raise money from people who have the interest of sport at heart.”
Sethi also stressed that OGQ cannot be the answer for everthing that brings down sport in the country. “OQG is at present a small organisation. A lot needs to be done for Indian sport. OGQ is not the answer for all things that plagues Indian sport. I hope we can reach a stage where we can address all issues. When that would be I don’t know. At present our focus is on Olympic medals.” Viswanathan Anand, a director, Viren Rasquinha, the body’s CEO, Deepika Kumari and Nivedita, two of the 101 atheletes that OGQ have on their rolls, were also present at the function.