Image Credits: @AFI
The 30-year old Arjuna Awardee and 4x400 meter sprinter, Arokia Rajiv feels the adrenaline rush as the long-awaited Tokyo Olympics just lies a few days ahead. He talks on SportTiger's special interview series "Mission Gold" as the relay team marches on to represent India at the quadrennial mega event.
Tokyo 2020 has been the talk of the town for quite some time and with it being delayed by a year's time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and all the practices coming to a standstill for a while affected everyone mentally. Rajiv was no different as he spoke about the obstacles that the athletes had to go through to find the calm of mind in order to maintain their physical form.
He said "The pandemic made us mentally disturbed, somehow we have managed to fight against it but it had left its impact on our minds. We had regular practices but the sudden imposition of lockdown took us to zero as we couldn't go on the ground and when we started again from the scratch another lockdown was imposed and we were back to square one. But with Olympics being so close in front of our sights, we were determined to get ourselves through a little trouble to get there. We tried to keep ourselves fit with whatever exercises we could do at home. After a few months, AFI sent us to Patiala where we practised for a year to prepare for competitions. Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 cases in India kept increasing and many countries banned to and fro flights from India and hence we couldn't get opportunities to participate in many competitions."
As an athlete, representing your country in the Olympics remains the ultimate goal for the long jumper turned sprinter and he is set to live it for the second time in the coming week. On qualifying for the Olympics he said "I feel very good having qualified for Tokyo Olympics. Though there weren't any competitions in 2018 but were the best performers in 2019 which ensured a top 16 finish for us. And again there was a break in 2020, but in 2021, we participated in a few competitions and clocked in good timings resulting in our qualification for Tokyo Olympics."
The 30-year old just doesn't want to stop at qualifying for the Olympics as he is determined to learning from the mistakes and overcome them to secure a medal for the nation to which he said, "I am very happy that we have qualified for Tokyo 2020, now our aim is to perform to the best of our abilities and to give our 100 per cent on track. It's a big event and we lacked experience the last time around. We are working on our weak points and learning from the mistakes we committed in the past and improving them. We are going there as a team and we have to work together. I'm the senior-most in the team, so I've more responsibilities. I have to give my best and also bring a medal for the country."
Rajiv is a calm and composed person in private but the moment he steps on the track he transforms into a fierce runner. In order to keep his composure, he often resorts to listening to songs or having a chat with his team before the race begins. But he makes sure that he and his teammates concentrate on the race 30 mins prior by talking strategies so that they remain focused on the race.
Rajiv also remembered the time when he got the opportunity to meet the most beloved athlete of our nation Late Milkha Singh. The joy of meeting his hero left a positive impact on him. He said, "I had the opportunity to meet Milkha sir once. He motivated us during his visit. I have also watched his movie which was highly motivational and we learned a lot from his mistakes. He was a huge figure in the world of athletics and a really down to earth person."
Along with talking about the legend of running, he also made sure to extend his thanks to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his never-ending support towards the athletes. He spoke about how the PM had tweeted to the nation to not add extra pressure on the athletes and he just wants them to play and perform their best. Speaking about the tweet he said "Modi sir has been very supportive to the athletes. We have met him a few times and he has welcomed us warmly each and every time. Whenever we have met him, he has always addressed each one of us by our names. His talks motivate us and it feels good that he is speaking about us." He followed it up by saying, "We are not going to the Olympics just to play. We are going there to win medals."
The Arjuna awardee remains highly optimistic to give his best at the Olympics and is positive of team India's chances to bring home more medals than they did in 2012 and said "We will definitely beat our 2012 London Olympics medal count in Tokyo 2020."