China, in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, won an astounding 51 gold medals, and 100 overall. India, for all its wealth of population, could only muster a solitary gold and trailed the likes of Mongolia and Kazakhstanin the points tally. A dismal fact, one must say. Is there scope for improvement? Plenty would be an understatement. As the 2012 London games approaches, Olympic Gold Quest, a non-profit organization that supports the training and preparation of Indian athletes who have a potential to win medals at the Olympics, has its sight fixed on improving current figures. We caught up with Vaibhav Tandon, currently heading the research and analysis wing at OGQ, and what followed was an inspiring conversation on how OGQ was set up, how they operate, and what they bring to the fore:India has the potential and the talent, yet never brings home many medals. What according to you is the major factor deterring Indian sport?
Potential and talent in Sports can be converted to success only if they get the right kind of support at the right time. Indian sports is hindered by many constraints like lack of access to world class infrastructure, absence of back-end sports science support team, few quality coaches, lack of knowledge of nutrition, physiotherapy etc. Olympic medals don’t grow on trees and to beat the best in the world we need to give world class support to our athletes. But, the positive news is that India has taken many steps in the right direction in past couple of years and going forward we need to build on that.
Tell me a bit about how it all started off and a bit about the team at OGQ.
OGQ is a non-profit organization that supports the training and preparation of Indian athletes who have a potential to win medals at the Olympics. The idea behind OGQ was conceived by the legends of Indian Sports Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone in 2001, who wanted to bring about a positive change in the Indian sports scene and help the athletes. The idea gained momentum in 2008 when eminent people from corporate world came out in support. OGQ signed their first athlete Gagan Narang before the 2008 Olympics. Today OGQ has the support of a very credible Board of Directors consisting of eminent people from Sports, Corporate and Entertainment field which can be seen here.
OGQ really kicked-off in 2009 when Viren Rasquinha (Former Captain of Indian Hockey Team and Arjuna Awardee) joined as the CEO after completing his MBA from ISB Hyderabad. Along with him Janit Desai (Head of Marketing & Operations) joined. We also have Dr. Nikhil Latey who is the Head of Sports Science & Rehab at OGQ and one of India’s best physiotherapists. I joined as the head of Research and Analysis and my role is to track and analyze the performance of potential athletes and recommend them to OGQ for support. Yatin Bhatkar is the Operations Manager and is responsible for handling all the admin work. Vivek Pathak heads our Website and IT team. OGQ has a small yet very dedicated and enthusiastic team all committed towards the cause of helping India win medals at the Olympics.
How do you visualize OGQ, say five years from now, more so in terms of diversifying into other sports?
The current focus of OGQ is obviously the upcoming London 2012 Olympics. Currently OGQ supports 32 athletes across 6 sports viz. Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Shooting and Luge (Winter Olympics). 13 athletes supported by OGQ have already qualified for London 2012. We expect 2-3 more athletes to qualify.
4 Year Plans – Vision 2016 and 2020:
We have to start planning for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics right away. We support many talented youngsters like 16 year old P.V. Sindhu (World#28 in Badminton),19 year old Sarjubala Devi (World Youth Boxing Champion) and 10 year old Lakshya Sen who according to badminton legend Prakash Padukone is a talent that is born once in 2 decades. OGQ will be now scouting for talented youngsters from across the nation and creating future Olympic champions. To make this happen, OGQ now plans on gradually implementing a well-structured Junior program for talented athletes in the age group of 11-18 years.
Our targets are to identify 2 new sports as priority sports and identify 10 new athletes in the next 6 months who will be ready for 2016 Support 100 athletes by the 2016 Olympics.
What kind of technology is used and what analysis is done in order to understand and enhance the potential of an athlete?
We have a world class medical team led by Dr. Nikhil Latey who does regular monitoring and physical check-ups of athletes to identify any gaps in their fitness levels. OGQ works closely with the national team coaches and the athletes to plug-in any gaps in their training and preparation. For e.g. we are doing video analysis of boxing bouts of Mary Kom and her opponents in consultation with her personal foreign coach.
The research team keeps a close check on the performance of OGQ athletes’ vis-à-vis their main opponents and identify points for improving their performance. Whether the athlete needs better equipment, exposure abroad, better coaching and training or medical support, OGQ is swift in identifying and responding to their needs.
Since OGQ is an NPO, how do you go about raising funds that are invested in athletes?
There are three things that help OGQ raise funds: Credibility of the Board, Transparency in the operations of OGQ and Impact in the performance of the athletes through OGQ support. We have raised maximum contributions from about 15 corporates and a few HNI’s by leveraging the network and credibility of our Board. We organize fund-raising dinners in different cities to create awareness about OGQ and connect with potential donors. Lastly, we have also started raising small contributions online from large number of people through our program ‘Power Your Champion’. OGQ ensures that the funds raised are used for the training and preparation of athletes, while keeping our admin and marketing expenses at the bare minimum.
It is heartening for us to see the confidence and trust put in by these funders on our team. Finally, it is the great performance of athletes that has really helped us raise more funds for the cause.
What are the kinds of events that are held by OGQ?
We organize fund-raising dinners in different cities 2-3 times a year which help us create more awareness about the cause and also connect with the potential donors. We have regular press conference and media interactions to keep them updated about the new signing by OGQ and also of our future programs. We also organize small events to engage our funders. For e.g. we recently organized a 1 day trip to Pune for EdelGive Foundation (a very close supporter and funder of OGQ) team members. They saw the training session of Mary Kom and interacted with her. This was followed by a fun shooting event where they tried their hands at pistol shooting.
How do you go about popularizing OGQ?
What are some of the obstacles that OGQ has faced or currently faces?
We work very closely with the Sports Ministry and various sports federations and they know that we complement their work. So, fortunately there has been no obstacle in terms of reaching out to our athletes during national camps or sending them for competitions abroad.
We had launched ‘Power Your Champion’ program 2 years back with an aim of generating small monthly contributions from large number of people. Aim was to not only raise money, but also connect masses with the cause of OGQ. However, the results have not been up to our satisfaction; though the efforts are still going on to popularize it. We hope that post the London 2012 Olympics our cause will gain more relevance and the support enjoyed by OGQ will turn into contributions.
Now that the Olympics are around the corner, how optimistic does the camp seem?
It is less than 3 months to go and sometimes it is hard to believe that 3 years have gone by so fast. Sometimes the feeling is like we are appearing for the first Board Exams J
Jokes apart the whole team is upbeat and enthusiastic about the London 2012 Olympics. 13 athletes supported by OGQ have already qualified and 3 more can qualify in Archery and Women Boxing. Our athletes have qualified convincingly by winning medals at the World Championships, World Cups, etc. The athletes are in top shape and on a given day each one of them is capable of winning an Olympic medal. We are confident that London 2012 will be a water shed event in the history of Indian Sports and it will be a great feeling to be part of this history.
The Olympics is definitely the mother of all sporting events. And OGQ wants to create a legacy that will make the entire nation proud. For the athletes, it is the culmination of years and years of blood, sweat and tears. We just hope that tears of joy will flow down their cheeks as they stand on the podium and listen to ‘Jana GanaMana.’
What else would you like our readers to know?
Besides looking at our website www.olympicgoldquest.in, readers can support all our athletes by extending their best wishes to them on our website link. We will be personally conveying your wishes to all the athletes.
I would like you to add information about the signature campaign launched by OGQ. Aim is to collect thousands and lakhs of messages and best wishes for Team India going to London 2012. Kindly write to us at email@example.com.
Also all those who want to contribute can log on to our website www.OlympicGoldQuest.in and donate here on our contribution page
You can follow all the updates of our athletes in the lead up to London 2012 here on the Facebook page.
Indeed all at Yourstory wishes team OGQ and team India all the very best at the upcoming Olympics and beyond.