Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on embracing politics

Indian sport has moved forward from the silver medal that Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won at the Athens Olympics in 2004, to the gold by Abhinav Bindra in 2008 in Beijing. Rathore, who helped the country make the quantum jump, after Leander Paes and Karnam Malleswari had won the individual bronze medals, has also moved on.

The Colonel quit the army recently to pursue a political career. The 43-year-old Rathore did compete in the last National Shooting Championship, but had made it clear that he would not like to be considered for the final round or representing the country. Rathore was still good enough to make both, but the man who missed the ticket to the London Games in bitter circumstances after shooting a World Record 148 out of 150 in the Asian Shotgun Championship last year has realised that life for him was a lot more serious than sports.

Good at fielding questions, Rathore gave a sound insight into his approach in joining the Bharatiya Janta Party for a political career that has already seen him get into the thick of things in terms of revamping the sports scenario in Rajasthan.

“I have always lived for a cause. Whatever I have done, I have done with commitment, be it as a soldier or as an Olympian. India needs political soldiers today to fight its internal battles. India cannot afford to lose this game. I am here for the challenge of my life, to play for India yet again and truly speaking, it is for the first time that I feel that I am playing for every Indian. Every moment of my life has been filled with nationalistic pride and hence it was obvious for me to join BJP that has charismatic leaders,” Rathore says.

It is tough to give up on one’s passion for sports. It is generally a lifelong pursuit. Why leave something when you can make a difference to India’s fortunes in shooting?

“The game is still on, just the canvas and its importance has increased. By stepping out of my comfort zone, I have challenged my body, mind and soul to grow as a human being. Being an Olympic medallist cannot be my life’s only goal. I find that too limited to myself. My grit and determination grows stronger as I age. If I can live for my country then it will be a life worth living,” he states.

From a strictly regimented life, revolving around punctuality, it has become a rough existence with unpredictability being the constant companion. Rathore also has the onus to take care of his talented son Manavaditya Singh Rathore, who, at 14, has already become the National junior champion in trap, in the under-21 age group.

“My son is showing great potential. He is rather young right now for me to expect performances. I and my wife want him to grow as a good human being, with a good educational foundation, be a committed and patriotic Indian. As parents, we try our best to provide him with opportunities for his growth. He will have to share my time with people, but excellence comes with internal determination and is not induced,” Rathore observes.

He may be making a big attempt to contribute in a more concrete and meaningful way to the society, but the load has to be borne more by Rathore’s family, especially his doctor wife, Gayatri, who appreciates his dream to make a difference. How has the family taken his decision to plunge into politics?

“It is certainly tough for them. My son was a little taken aback especially with the present reputation of an average politician. My wife will have to further bear the burden of bringing up the family. But, they too long for an India that we can all be proud of. It is ironical that some of those who lead our nation, some of those whose decisions affect our daily lives, are the ones we look down upon the most. How can we, as a nation, progress with such leaders? This is our country, and we must shoulder responsibility in any way we can, even if it be by stepping out to vote,” he adds. Does Rathore believe a sportsman would be a lot sharper and ensure good governance?

“It is more about intent, the burning desire to bring about a change and less about one’s background. I have been groomed by the best Army in the world. I have always stood up for my team, stood by what is right and I have never hesitated to move forward into uncharted territories,” Rathore says.

For sure, his path will be viewed with a lot of interest.