India must narrow focus to boost medal hopes in Tokyo: Padukone

Sat Oct 1, 2016 3:16am EDT
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By Anupam Pratihary

BENGALURU (Reuters) - After bringing home just two medals from the Rio Olympics, India needs to be realistic in its preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Games and should narrow its focus to a handful of sports, says former All England badminton champion Prakash Padukone.

P.V. Sindhu's silver medal in the badminton women's singles and a bronze from wrestler Sakshi Malik at the Rio Games was considered a sorry return for a nation of 1.3 billion people.

India have won a total of 28 medals since first competing at the Olympics in 1900 but a government think tank has come up with a strategy it hopes will help the country to 50 medals in 2024, including prioritising 10 sports.

Padukone, an outlier who emerged from India's backwaters to win the All England in 1980, 12 years before badminton made its debut as a medal sport at the Barcelona Games, thinks funding should be channeled into fewer sports.

"There are only five or six sports where we can get a medal," he told Reuters at his badminton academy in Bangalore. "We have chances in archery, boxing, badminton, wrestling, shooting and in team sport, hockey.

"Basically, we need to identify these sports and focus right now and provide as much funds. And then may be someone like gymnast, Dipa Karmakar, because she's an exceptional talent."

Padukone said India should follow the United States' and Britain's approach by starting preparations at least four or five years ahead of an Olympics.

"The preparation for the Tokyo Games should start from yesterday. I think we should be realistic and aim for 10 medals, nothing more than that," he said.   Continued...

Former Indian badminton player Prakash Padukone speaks during an interview with Reuters in Mumbai, India, June 16, 2016. Picture taken June 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade