The virus cannot be stopped, the danger remains whether the Olympics happen or not, says IOA joint secretary Namdev Shirgaonkar | More sports News – Times of India
TimesofIndia.com spoke to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) joint secretary and the vice president of the Maharashtra Olympic Association Namdev Shirgaonkar about this, India’s medal chances if the Games do indeed go ahead and more.
Shirgaonkar, who is also the President of India Taekwondo, also spoke with Timesofindia.com about the state of the sport in India and long term goals, as well as the ongoing fiasco involving two-time Olympic medallist and star wrestler Sushil Kumar.
If the Olympics do happen, how would you rate India’s medal chances this year at the Games? Which disciplines are the big medal favourites?
India’s medal chances are extremely high, wrestling and shooting are at the forefront of the medal scope. Indian Hockey looks great and has just beaten the world champions. The archers have racked up medals at the recent World Cup. But having said that, it is extremely important to understand the pressure the country may sometimes put. The athletes are doing a great job but they are also putting their lives (on the line) and are willing to compete, so we as the audience should do everything with respect and support for the athletes.
Should the Olympics go ahead as per schedule considering the current COVID situation?
It totally depends on the organisers. For athletes, it is essential that the Olympics should be conducted but only by keeping the athletes’ health and safety as a priority. The organisers have to keep in mind that it makes no sense if the associations will be counting injuries or casualties instead of medals. They can definitely go ahead with the strictest safety measures.
Do you think if the Olympics are held, it can put the lives of athletes all over the world in danger?
To be completely honest, aren’t everyone’s lives in danger already? It’s not in danger only at the Olympics. The threat of the virus is very real and very widespread already. The only things to do are the health measures and utmost urgency of vaccinations. The virus cannot be stopped, so the danger remains with or without the Olympics, constantly.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) recently said that the allegations against Sushil Kumar have tarnished the image of Indian wrestling. What is your take on the allegations and the fact that there is a non-bailable warrant out for the two-time Olympic medallist?
My honest opinion is that Sushil Kumar should not be bigger than the WFI enough to completely tarnish the image of wrestling in India. One is in a personal capacity and one is in the professional capacity, which cannot be compared. A comment at the moment without the completion of the investigation is not the correct thing to make. Let the courts and police decide the matter as per the procedure and let the law do its work.
What is your take on the current state of Taekwondo in India?
Taekwondo is largely popular in the martial arts community and it’s also an Olympic sport. It goes (to the) grassroots, but we do recognise that the number of professional athletes is less. Taekwondo’s structure is going to change, the new system is going to be implemented soon. The government has recently sanctioned an international coach which has not happened before. This is (for) the long-term target of the 2022 Asian Games and 2024 Olympic Games. We are trying to relaunch the online education program with Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) due to Covid-19 for athletes along with the masters. Belt gradations and belt examinations will also be conducted online keeping the situation in mind.
What is the big reason India hasn’t been able to produce big stars in Taekwondo?
We do have stars in the Taekwondo community, the results speak for themselves and it is totally unfair to say that there are no stars by definition in the community. However, we do recognise the work that is yet to be put for them to move on to the next level.
There needs to be a long-term development plan for the athletes. We are working with World Taekwondo and (we are) looking to work closely with SAI. Government support is going to be key here for training programmes, fitness programmes. Taekwondo, despite being an international sport, has immense raw material and athletes at the grassroots and only needs to be polished with the help of international level coaches and excellent training programmes. The short-term plan is a tie-up with the Iranian and Korean Taekwondo Federations respectively to learn and improve. This has been facilitated with the help of World Taekwondo and is just the first piece in our long-term plans. Changing the traditional landscape, we are introducing Taekwondo education as well as competitive Taekwondo. We are planning to make Taekwondo as inclusive as possible from the perspective of educational Taekwondo. Competitive Taekwondo has been in its nascent stage and long-term programs will be put into place. The first milestone has been met with the last SAF (South Asian) Games with countless international medals.
What should India do to take Indian Taekwondo players to the Olympic level?
SAF (South Asian Games), is the first milestone and Olympics is only the next step. Asian Games and YOG (Youth Olympic Games). We are trying to the maximum potential under current conditions for the athletes to qualify for Tokyo 2021, but we have to understand the long-term goal of excelling in the sport that is still in the nascent stage in our country. The results will only come with the right structure. Qualifying is the first target and then we will work step by step towards the results that we aspire (for).
India Taekwondo has been recently formed and the first step has been to form players and referee commissions. The work has just started, there is such a long way to go still, and eventually, foreign coaches will be appointed as well since the international exchange is key. We have received the particular waiver and subsequent green light from the World Taekwondo to go full steam ahead.
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