India's 2020 Olympics tally will improve, says marathon champion Sunita
In an exclusive interview with NewsBytes, India's undisputed marathon champion Sunita Godara feels the nation's medals tally will improve in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. India earned just two medals in the Rio 2016 Games, however, she feels the performances in Tokyo will be better. Sunita also opened up on how the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted athletes. Here's what she said.
Medals will increase at Tokyo Games, feels Sunita
The Indian contingent has won a total of 28 medals at the Olympics. The last three Olympic events have produced 11 medals in total. "Medals will increase. This is because of the facilities, financial assistance and international exposure the athletes are getting," said Sunita. "Kiren Rijiju is a very promising sports minister and has been backing athletes," said Sunita.
Qualified athletes will keep their spots for Tokyo Games
Back in March, the Olympics was postponed by a year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Athletes, who had qualified for the Olympics, will keep their slots in 2021. Meanwhile, the deadline for qualifying is June 21, 2021. Sports such as gymnastics will need to decide the fate of the athletes who were way too young this year.
Olympics postponed: 'Age could become an issue for several athletes'
When asked about what does it mean for the participants in terms of preparations, Sunita felt the postponement is a blessing for athletes, who were nursing injuries and niggles. However, she highlighted with the postponement, age could be an issue for several athletes who are in their 30s. "For a person who is 30 or 32, one year gap sometimes becomes too hectic."
Postponing the Games was a positive step by IOC: Sunita
Earlier, several Indian athletes had welcomed the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics. Sunita said the postponement due to COVID-19 was a positive step keeping the athletes in mind. "The authorities postponed the event just when the coronavirus started to take shape rather than waiting longer. This was a positive step, keeping in mind the safety of everyone. It's a good decision," she said.
Sunita opens up on the fitness issues of athletes
Recently, ace sprinter Dutee Chand, who returned to training after the lockdown, claimed she has lost her speed. Speaking on the same, Sunita said: "The main problem is because of the lockdown, the fitness level has reduced. Athletes aren't able to do the work they are used to doing on the field. They will need to start from scratch."
'Another one year of hard work is required now'
"It could take three-four months for athletes to regain their fitness levels. Another year of hard work is required now. Injuries are the main problems and now you may never know when you get injured," said Sunita regarding Dutee and Co.
Young athletes have to work on mental strength, says Sunita
Sunita had a message for young athletes in terms of handling the pressure of a headline event like the Olympics. "They have to work on their mind. When we talk about Olympic level athletes, it's not just about them and coaches. There is a science behind it. Sports scientists, masseurs and rehab doctors need to have faith in these youngsters," said Sunita.
Sunita highlights the importance of sports psychologists
"Sports psychologists are important as well. It should not be when a young athlete is morally down then only he/she should be sent to a psychologist. It is an ongoing thing," Sunita opined. "A coach can be motivating, however, only a psychologist can help them train their mind. They should work together. This is where all the different sciences have a role."
What does Sunita feel about India's future
Speaking about the future of Indian athletes, Sunita said: "They need to become better and better. The way facilities are improving, things are better than before. If I compare my time during national camps and the situation now, we didn't have junior support system. Now we have the Khelo India Games." "Financial assistance and exposure is much better than earlier," added Sunita.
A look at Sunita's celebrated career
Sunita had a celebrated career and completed 76 full marathons. She holds the record of winning the maximum number of marathons among Indian athletes. She won 25 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals across the globe in 26 countries. She has taken part in 200 international races including 123 half marathons. Sunita won the gold in the 1992 Asian Marathon Championship.
Sunita says she achieved things on her own
Looking back at her own career, Sunita said she achieved things on her own. "I wasn't a federation baby and didn't get sponsored for anything. With my dedication, hard work and discipline, I achieved whatever I did. If I would have got the exposure and financial assistance, I would have done better." She also said her positive nature helped her to become consistent.
Sunita's message for the readers of NewsBytes
Sunita also had a message for the readers of NewsBytes during the pandemic. "This is a time to enhance your knowledge. Learn something new and indulge yourself in a hobby so that you don't get bored or demoralized," she concluded.