Pune, May 5: Star cricketer Rohit Sharma today wished luck to the Indian sports contingent which will take part in the upcoming Rio Olympic Games from August 5-21 by presenting an autographed bat to ace marksman Gagan Narang who is a bronze medallist from the last edition.
Rohit, who is leading defending champions Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, which is in progress, presented a signed bat with the words "Go for the Gold" written on it to Narang, a bronze medalist in the men's 10m air rifle event at the 2012 London Olympics.
The bat was presented to Narang by Rohit after the duo had inaugurated the Pune International Sports Expo (PISE) at the College of Agriculture Grounds here, said a media release. Narang spoke about the challenges the Olympic athletes face to achieve their goals.
"Winning medals for India is my job, but while I pursue my dream of yet another Olympic medal, this time in Rio, I want to reflect on the challenges that we face," said the 32-year-old Hyderabad-based Narang, winner of eight gold medals in the Commonwealth Games of 2006 and 2010.
"We often talk about level playing field. While in corporate boardrooms this still is an Utopia, but in sports this is what we strive for. However, in a country like ours democracy or level can only come once we think of opportunity or playing fields," said the ace rifle shooter.
Recently, the Parliament was told by the Sports Ministry that the Government expects 10 medals from Rio, while the target is 25 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Speaking about the figure that has been projected by the sports ministry, Narang said whether or not that figure was achievable, it was more important to view the efforts that go behind the final results.
"Surely that is a number that Government wants to achieve given the grants they give. But is it practical? It can become practical if there is democratisation of sports and if Indian sports had many more stake holders," felt Narang.
"In that backdrop, I see there is a great initiative here to give a shot in the arm to Indian sports at this sports exhibition as we need people like these to partner sporting needs of people who are not only at the top, the elite athletes... but the ones starting out as well," he said.
Rohit pointed out that Pune has a special place in his career as after playing his Under-14 and Under-17 cricket in the city, it was here that he was selected for the India Under-17 team.
"Being a sportsperson, we all know it is not easy to excel. Lot of dedication and hard work is required and lot of willingness to improve every time you go out on the field. That's what we all have been doing. I am talking about cricket as I am a cricketer," said Rohit.
"I can see a lot of kids sitting here and I am sure their goal is to represent India at some stage of any sport. I wish them all the best," he added.
Describing Pune as the city that has rich sports culture, Vishwajeet Kadam, the brain behind the PISE, said the city has shown immense growth all sectors including sports.
"We now have Pune teams in so many franchisee-based leagues, from ISL to Pro-Kabaddi and I-League, Pune has made its mark in the sporting world," said Kadam.
"Saying that by hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008, Pune entered a new phase in sports promotion as world standard sporting infrastructure came up where athletes could train and take part in competitions.
"Youngsters look up to people like Rohit Sharma and Gagan Narang and aspire to reach same heights in their chosen sports. Both have achieved high in their disciplines, but the youngsters need proper guidance and training to get anywhere closer to that and with PISE we are trying to give them everything on one stage," he added.