As chief operating officer of Olympic Gold Quest, Viren Rasquinha has worked with athletes for the last three years. Now that they are in London and in the midst of the greatest test of their lives, Rasquinha looks back at the last three hectic years, in this conversation with Aabhas Sharma
You have worked for almost three years now with the athletes and now at last they are in London for the Olympics. Are you nervous, excited or feeling drained?
It is a mixture of all these things and has been one hell of a ride. I am excited to see how they will match up against the best and at the same time nervous about how they will fare. It has been an emotionally draining experience as well seeing athletes go through various highs and lows.
What has your average day and week been like in the lead-up to the Olympics?
Olympic Gold Quest is a small organisation and we have a five-member team, so there’s not a set day or pattern of work we follow. Sometimes I am travelling the length and breadth of the country catching up with coaches and athletes, and there are days where I am helping with the OGQ website or making various marketing plans. I really don’t have a pre-defined average day in my work life.
Speaking of travel, how many air miles have you collected in the last 18 months?
I have travelled abroad just once for the World Boxing Championship with one of our athletes Suranjoy Singh. I don’t see the point of me going with them abroad. Yes, across the country I do travel a lot to the various training centres where our athletes train. You learn a lot about athletes when they’re training as they are really frank with you and tell me about how they’re feeling about their preparations. You get to meet their coaches as well during this time, and understand if there are any issues they face. Also, as a hockey player I have done my fair share of globetrotting, so I had rather see the money being spent on the athlete than my going with them.
What has been the most memorable experience for you at OGQ so far?
There have been quite a few moments, to be honest. When M C Mary Kom won her fifth World Championship in Barbados, or when our athletes won 12 medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Seeing athletes come back from injury and win is also a great feeling. Like when boxer Nanao Singh who came back from a serious injury to win a gold at the national championships, it was really heartening to see that. When I see the average, middle-class Indian contributing money — even if it’s not a considerable amount — on our website, which goes to the athletes preparations, that too is heartening to see.
What are the changes you have seen in the way sports bodies function in India? Are they still archaic in their style of working?
To be fair, there have been changes, and positive ones. But what I like to see is the speed of change. We still take a lot of time to implement things and our sports federations have to be more professional. We are already far behind other countries and need to fast-track our approach if we want to be better at sport. One good thing has been how the sports ministry has improved and has become more proactive. Credit must be given to the sports minister Ajay Maken for his outlook towards Indian sport. He has been in touch with athletes — current and former — and sought their advice on changing things and making Indian sport more competitive.
Many athletes, perhaps, will not come back with a medal. What would be your advice to them having been an Olympian and not won a medal?
We will sit down with our athletes and assess things. We won’t discard them just because they didn’t win a medal. Sometimes you can lose a medal by a whisker and not winning a medal won’t make them losers. International sport has become more competitive and for some of them even qualifying for the Olympics has been a great achievement. We will see if they can be competitive for the 2016 Olympics. If not, we will see in what capacity they can help Indian sport — be it talent-spotting or mentoring young athletes.