From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.38 :: Sep. 19, 2009

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GENERAL / RAJIV GANDHI KHEL RATNA

The tri-ratnas

‘Sportstar’ got up-close with the three decorated sportspersons, Vijender Singh, Mary Kom and Sushil Kumar, to find out what success, wealth and fame meant to them at this point of time in their careers. Over to Rakesh Rao.

They share a lot in common. Their modest background, earthy ways, humility, never-say-die spirit and most strikingly, the honesty that comes through whenever they choose to speak their mind, make them different from some of the country’s better-known sports celebrities.

For Vijender Singh, M. C. Mary Kom and Sushil Kumar, the path to success has been extremely tough. Armed with abundant talent, they all faced a constraint of resources, particularly financial, when they were pursuing their dream. But they have overcome the odds in less patronised disciplines like boxing and wrestling to establish an identity of their own.

Mary is a four-time world champion in boxing with her latest gold coming after she gave birth to twin-boys. Wrestler Sushil brought the Olympic bronze medal from Beijing and became the latest poster-boy of the fraternity. Vijender, with the looks of a man from the tinsel world, conquered the hearts of millions with his robust ways that fetched him the Olympic bronze, the first ever for the country from the boxing ring. Since then, his rustic charm has added to his growing fan club.

Today, they are all the more determined to bring more laurels to the country. Already honoured with the Arjuna Award, the trio received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna on the National Sports Day from the President, Pratibha Patil.

They are obviously grateful to the nation for acknowledging their contribution and making them recipients of the nation’s highest sports award. But they are not finished yet. They want to thank the nation by bringing the Olympic gold in their respective disciplines.

SPORTSTAR got up-close with the three decorated sportspersons to find out what success, wealth and fame meant to them at this point in time of their careers.

On the subject of success, each one saw it differently and the views gave an insight into their way of thinking.

For Mary, success was, “the end result of determination, will power and all the hard work. Winning the world title four times surely makes me feel successful. But that does not leave me satisfied. I still have to give India an Olympic gold in 2012. It is the biggest reward from the world’s biggest stage. I am confident that I’ll bring the gold for my country and my people.”

Sushil saw success as the ashirwaad (blessings) of parents, elders and all well-wishers. “Without blessings, all the hard work and training will be nothing. For me, if not blessed, no one can be successful. Everyone works hard but not everyone succeeds. Prayers and blessings play a big role in our lives. I firmly believe that even when we go through rough times, the blessings of our loved ones make those times less arduous.”

Vijender’s take was, “if your dreams are fulfilled, you take it as success. Whenever anything you aspire comes your way, you are deemed to be successful. I think one should never be satisfied with what one has achieved. You continue to dream and work hard to achieve them. That’s life. I have lots of unfulfilled dreams and I am chasing them. I don’t know when I can call myself successful.”

On the subject of wealth, Vijender, Mary and Sushil more or less followed the same line of thought.

“Money is most important,” says Vijender and continues, “If you don’t have enough, you don’t get the respect of the society. When I go to big cities, like Mumbai, I notice that people respect only those who have money. Since I am from a village in Haryana, I can safely say that in our villages, even today, money is not that important. Love and affection are.”

Mary was equally candid in underlining the importance of wealth. “Money is very important for everyone except for those who have enough. I belong to a very poor family with no background to talk about. I had to struggle all the way. I never thought I would reach this far and win four world titles. I was happy with one. But then, I had the determination to win again.

“There were times when I had to think of ways of meeting the expenditure during national competitions. From time to time, the Government of India did provide financial assistance but on most occasions, boxers like me had to spend from their own savings. There were occasions when I could not meet my dietary needs on my own. That’s why I say that money is important. Today, of course, times have changed for the better for me.”

Sushil, who once looked forward to winning weekly dangals (bouts offering cash award to the winner) to support his wrestling, says, “Wealth or money is important for everyone. One should have enough to meet his daily needs. For a wrestler, much is spent on his diet. A wrestler’s family, living in a village, cannot be expected to look after his needs by ignoring theirs.

“How I wish everyone had enough money to meet his or her needs. I believe that excess of everything is bad, even if it is money.”

Finally, on being famous, again, the three had interesting responses.

In Mary’s opinion, it was “very important” to be famous. “Being famous makes it much easier to achieve certain things in life. For me, it helped to be famous as I could continue boxing even after marriage and motherhood. For this support, I cannot thank my husband enough. I hope my being famous helps those whose families do not encourage girls to pursue a career of their choice. The mindset of the society needs to be changed. If my success influences the life of even one girl, I’ll be very happy.”

Sushil thinks everyone in his or her chosen area of specialisation dreams of being famous. “For me, being famous means my sport gets more respect and recognition. When I look at the famous wrestlers of the country, I feel proud. I don’t think I am famous. I am still the same man who is trying to do his bit for wrestling and his country. God willing, if I am able to bring the gold medal in the next Olympics and make my country proud, then I’ll be famous. I’ll be happy to be famous,” he ends softly.

Vijender, clearly the most “famous” of the three Khel Ratna awardees of the year, appears unfazed by the visibility he has gained through the media since his exploits in Beijing. “I am from a modest background. And what I’ve learnt is that if you continue to work hard to achieve your goals, fame follows. I’ve also heard that increased media attention and focus tends to take you away from your goals. If I am good at boxing and continue to achieve success, everything else will follow. I don’t chase other goals by neglecting boxing. Being famous also brings more responsibilities with it. If I am considered famous, it is because of boxing. I’ll never forget that.”



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