Anjali Bhagwat and Adille Sumariwalla refused to be tempted to name medal winners at an engrossing London Olympics related debate here on Sunday.

The two released a book on London Olympics published by Amar Hind Mandal and Astitva Sanskar Prabodhini. Sumariwalla, President of the Athletics Federation of India felt that the mindset of the government has changed for the better and definitely more inclined to encourage sportspersons. “If the 14 athletes achieve their personal best, it will be like winning a gold medal for India. There is a possibility of Krishna Poonia (discus throw) winning a medal, but I don’t want to put pressure on her. Instead, I ask her when she is going to touch 66 metres. There are three athletes in the top 20, one in the top 30 and two in the top 50. But I don’t want to make predictions,” said Sumariwalla.

The 11-time national sprint champion said that women are more committed than men. “The men who join Railways, Services and Police run for a few years and then give up because of commitment to their families. But overall the environment has changed with the government ready to encourage and spend money. I think there has to be more private participation.”

Anjali said interest among girls has increased because of the success of Saina Nehwal in badminton, Mary Kom in boxing, Anju Bobby-George in athletics and Deepika Kumari in archery. “There was a time when 300 women would take part in the shooting nationals, but the number has gone up many times now. The Olympics comes once in four years; its like a ‘maha yudh’ for sportspersons. The Olympics provides a life time opportunity to achieve glory. The aim is to win a medal. The environment is better, but I would not like to put pressure on any one. I think if they perform to their potential and bring out their best, there is always a chance of winning a medal.”

Anjali said that when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal at Athens (double trap shooting), the confidence level of the Indians improved and when Abhinav Bindra changed the colour of the medal to gold (winning the 10 metre air rifle) at Beijing in 2008, it broke all barriers. Abhinav was not really part of the Indian system. He trained and practiced overseas, in Germany. We will be able to see better results even if the present young shooters are able to put in 10 per cent of his (Bindra’s) effort.

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