Kiren Rijiju hopes to broaden India's Olympic repertoire
India's performances at the Olympics have been on the rise over the past two decades, with the country's 2012 London Olympics medal haul remaining its best so far.
However, there are only a handful of Olympic sports where India has performed admirably at, such as hockey, shooting, badminton, wrestling and boxing.
A desire to broaden India's capability in more sports is not oblivious to India's sports minister Kiren Rijiju, who spoke to the Indian daily Economic Times about what is being done to boost India's 2020 Olympics medal hopes, as well as improve the scope of its ambitions in the 2024 and 2028 Games.
Ensuring the best preparation for 2020 Olympics
In the most recent edition of the Olympics, in Rio 2016, India managed to pick up two medals - silver for PV Sindhu in badminton and Sakshi Malik's wrestling bronze - which Kiren Rijiju says is not enough.
"We can’t go to the Olympics hoping to win only one or two medals. That is why the preparation for Tokyo is in full swing," he said, emphasising the role of training facilities and coaches as a factor. “Now we are improving on both fronts."
“We are creating the best possible environment for our sportspersons,” he added. “All these have made a tremendous impact. Look at our hockey team — both men and women. They are beating the world’s number one team.”
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Kiren Rijiju is optimistic for as many as 14 disciplines at the 2020 Olympics, including wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, athletics, badminton, table tennis, archery, shooting, fencing and hockey.
Patience is of the essence
Despite the lofty goals harboured by his ministry, Kiren Rijiju advised caution about too much expectation too early.
"You can’t produce champions in one or two years. That takes eight to 10 years. I had very limited time (of one year) for Tokyo 2020 when I took charge. I have tried to make the best use of the time and resources we had," he pointed out.
And while the 2020 Olympics is the mission at hand, Kiren Rijiju's ministry has an eye on the future, with a focus on Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028, citing that the efforts currently taken will likely make an impact then.
"More than 50,000 young sportspersons are undergoing training at national camps,” he said. “I am confident all these efforts will bear fruit."