Challenges: Broadly speaking, there are two primary challenges. One is obviously funding and the other is finding right athletes who have the chance of winning Olympic medals. India is a big country and we need to broaden our base to find talent. Currently OGQ supports 76 athletes (49 senior and 27 junior). Ideally, we should be supporting 200. Then we can say we will win 10 medals at the Olympics. Otherwise, it is hard to think about 10 if we are supporting 49 senior athletes. The base for young athletes has to be wide.
Funding obviously is a challenge. Not just one-time funding but to sustain a constant flow of funding over the years. We should engage with all the funders and keep them interested.
Athletes themselves face challenges of having the right coaches, right infrastructure, equipment, exposure and support staff. If they get injured get rehabilitated on time. If they are fit, to make them fitter and educate them on the right methods of training, nutrition, warm-up and cool down. It’s a continuous process and challenges in every sport are different. What is more important is winning the players’ trust. (MC) Mary (Kom) might not confide in someone she doesn’t trust. Or for that matter Saina (Nehwal). There are many physios and mental trainers. I spend at least 15 days in travelling and spend days together with the athletes to know and then only will they start trusting you. Only then they will tell you their problem and only then will you know what needs to be done. If you are in office and call them up, the report is always excellent – coach, equipment, food – everything is excellent.
Evaluation: You have to constantly keep pushing them. You have to keep motivating them. It’s lonely in training. They train so hard and pressure builds up. We have to take away the pressure and logistical tension — visa milega kya, tickets milenge? I think we do a fantastic job. Athletes need to focus on training and competitions. Nothing else... that’s our job.
Reason for joining: First of all, I joined because of Geet (Sethi) and Prakash (Padukone). They are legends. The credibility of the board is very strong. Leander (Paes) and (Viswanathan) Anand, who are also legends, joined. The board gave me complete freedom. There were a few athletes. I just tried to bring in a good system for research of athletes. For me, taking the right athlete even if we invest a lot of time is critical. We research and track an athlete for almost six months. What they have done in the last three years. What kind of support they have. What kind of equipment they were using. What the best athletes in the world are doing. I want their hunger and desire to be the best in the world. We are supporting an athlete for five-six years. If you are supporting the wrong athlete there is so much waste of time and resources. We invest a lot in monitoring. I tried to build an environment of excellence. All these I brought in because of my experiences as a player. Now things have changed. When I was playing there was an atmosphere of mediocrity. In that environment one can only be a participating nation, not a winning nation. There has to be ownership.
Viren Rasquinha is former India hockey captain and CEO of OGQ