Leander Paes looks to daughter to carry on the family legacy at Olympics

As his father inspired him to become an Olympic champion, Leander Paes is hoping to do the same for daughter Aiyana Paes.

By Utathya Nag ·

At the Paes residence in Kolkata, two Olympic medals sit side by side. And Leander Paes hopes daughter Aiyana Paes can add one more to continue the ‘family tradition’ at the Olympics.

While Vece Paes got the ball rolling with his bronze with the Indian hockey team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Leander Paes followed suit with one of his own at Atlanta 1996, making him independent India’s first individual Olympic medallist.

Another generation awaits?

His medal, Leander Paes admitted, was what earned him a place at the dining table alongside his dad. “He did not give me that position before the medal arrived,” the Indian tennis legend quipped during an Instagram Live with the Olympic Channel.

Currently holed up at his apartment in Mumbai due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Leander Paes has been taking care of his dad, who is battling Parkinson’s, and spending time with his daughter Aiyana Paes.

It has given a much-needed break for the seven-time Olympian and he says it has allowed him to instill the Paes family’s sporting values in his daughter. 

“I have been teaching her the nuances of the family trade, which is physical fitness, emotional happiness, and mental fitness,” he said.

The youngster has already made her ambition clear to Leander Paes. “She wants to be an Olympic champion herself and I get goosebumps when I think of a third-generation Olympic medallist. I'll try to nurture that (dream),” he expressed.

And of course, she has two of the best role models anyone with that dream could ask for.

“It will be fantastic if my daughter wins a medal or outdoes her dad and grandad and gets silver. She can then sit at the dining table,” laughed Leander Paes.

Runs in the family

Sports have always been a way of life in the Paes household - the Indian tennis ace’s mother Jennifer was also a top-tier athlete, having captained the Indian women’s basketball team in international tournaments.

“Being from the Indian community with a family like this, you learn the responsibility of being an Olympic athlete, the responsibility of playing for 1.3 billion people,” the 46-year-old emphasized.