Ace pistol shooter Jitu Rai is set to train as well as compete in shooting events at Rio de Janeiro in the middle of August this year as he prepares to take a shot at a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
"I will be going to Rio one year before the Olympics, around August 15-16, for training-cum-competition. This will help me to get a feel of the Olympic range," the 50m pistol gold medal winner at last year's Commonwealth and Asian Games told reporters in Mumbai on Tuesday.
The Nepal-born army shooter's trip to Rio is being supported by Olympic Gold Quest, the not-for-profit organisation jointly founded by cue ace Geet Sethi and badminton great Prakash Padukone.
Rai, who has already earned a quota place in the Rio Games scheduled from August 5-21, 2016, is all set to take part in four World Cups as well as train overseas in the run-up to the Olympics. Suspended woman boxer Sarita Devi, who is also supported by OGQ, thanked them for helping her in recovering from the wrist injury sustained last year at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland where she won a silver medal in the 60kg class.
"I am indebted to OGQ for the support they have given me. I underwent a surgery at the Leelavati hospital here (on November 14th) and have recovered now (with removal of the wire inserted on December 29).
"I will start to train now for the Rio Games and my entire focus is to win the gold medal there and prove myself," said Manipur-born Sarita who is serving a one-year ban imposed by world body AIBA for rejecting her bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games medal ceremony last year.
Sarita, who had controversially lost to a Korean boxer in the semi finals of the Incheon Asian Games, has the Asian Championship and the World Championship next year to qualify for the Rio Games, according to OGQ's CEO Viren Rasquinha.
"She has promised us that she will be the fittest among all boxers of the world in the 60kg class," Rasquinha said. Sarita and Rai also interacted with nine-time world billiards champion Sethi and four-time world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand, one of the directors of OGQ Board, on the mental aspects.
Â "The focus of the interaction was to mental preparation. Geet Sethi and Vishwanathan Anand had a one to one chat with Sarita and Jitu Rai," said Rasquinha, who had led India in international hockey tournaments in the past.
"OGQ will continue to support the athletes in their preparations. We talked about the mental aspect of preparations, the pitfalls and distractions that will creep in, which we have experienced, and how best to get over them and prepare for an event of the magnitude of the Olympics," said Sethi.
"The mental aspect is different in different sports and for different sportspersons. We talked about what we felt at big moments and how we had prepared for the big events. It was just an exchange of ideas and just the beginning," said Anand.
"Excellence is always pursued and never attained. This I speak from personal experience," said Sethi.
Another OGQ director and former national men's table tennis champion Niraj Bajaj said that the whole focus of the organisation was to help the top Indian sports persons to bridge the gap between the national and world level.
"We have the potential and talent to become world champions but the key is how we bridge that gap," said Bajaj. "Other than in cricket we have only a handful of world champions. Two of them (Sethi and Anand) are here (to talk to Sarita and Rai)," he said.