SPORT

Rathore arrives home to a hearty welcome

NEW DELHI, AUG. 21. Winning the silver at the Olympics may have changed his life forever, but Maj. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore says he would prefer to continue living a quiet life.

"I am feeling great because the entire country is happy about my achievement," Rathore said on his arrival from Athens here on Saturday.

Rathore could not spare too much time for the media at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The 9 Grenadiers, Rathore's unit, had come in full strength to greet its man. There was also a party of drummers, courtesy the sponsor of the Indian contingent, Sahara, and the din drowned out practically every word that was spoken.

Once outside, Rathore climbed onto the roof of an army jeep and waved to the crowd that had gathered to greet him.

"I just hope that there will be no major changes to my life. I would like it to be as peaceful as it used to be," he said after arriving at his Delhi Cantonment residence.

Asked if he was relieved to be back home with wife and children after the gruelling competition at Athens, he said, "the feeling of relief came when I shot those last two birds. Now it's a feeling of satisfaction because the entire country is celebrating and I am with my family."

He said the shooters had acquitted themselves rather well at the Games. "As far as shooting is concerned, I think we have done well. The fact that three Indian shooters (Suma Shirur, Abhinav Bindra and himself) made it to the final is something creditable."

Rathore also made a special mention of shooter Gagan Narang, who missed making the final by one point. "He is a young shooter and this was his first Olympics. He definitely has a bright future."

Asked to describe the preliminary rounds in which he finished fifth among the six finalists, Rathore revealed that an unexpected stoppage in the third round that had disturbed his focus.

"I was about to take the shot when the referee stopped me because the scoreboard had stopped functioning. It was by sheer luck that it had happened when I was on the station to shoot," Rathore said.

"The thought that two years of practice and dedication would go waste did cross my mind, but I kept my focus and carried on from there on," Rathore said.

He said the gold medallist, Ahmed Al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, was a great competitor. "I think I made the mistake of beating him in the Masters Cup in the Czech Republic. He finished out of the medal bracket and I think that spurred him on in Athens," Rathore said.

He thanked the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Sports Ministry and his federation for showing faith in his ability. "But, above all it is army which has instilled in me the determination to achieve the goal," he said.