As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics enters its second half, the track and field events are set to take centrestage with the Indian contingent promising a lot in the coming days. 

Olympics is the biggest game show on earth in the words of Anand Menezes - a former Olympian who once ran faster than Milkha Singh in the 200m.

In an exclusive with SportsAdda, Menezes spoke about an array of topics like the pressure of Olympics as an athlete, the future of athletics in the country and Neeraj Chopra - India’s medal prospect in the javelin throw.

During the chat, Menezes was of the opinion that the country is producing promising Olympians across disciplines in India, which will in turn lead to top performances in the quadrennial event in the coming years. 

“India is already working towards (producing top athletes). Former famous athletes like P.T. Usha and Anju Bobby George have their own academies and their kids are doing well. Their athletes are making a name at the national level in various tournaments. Tata also has its academy in Jamshedpur. So, we are doing a lot of things for athletics and other disciplines as well. This is working towards the Olympic Games in 2028 and 2032 where we can get more medals,” Menezes said.

He went on to reminisce about his time as an athlete during the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the processes he followed as a 20-year-old. 

“I can share my experience here. I was a part of the 2000 Olympics. Before the event, we were training well and we got a chance to go to the Asian Championships to qualify for the Olympics. We made it through and that was my first and last Olympic experience,” Menezes said.

“I was just 20 years old and was the youngest in the team. It was a great experience for me. I used to watch the likes of Maurice Greene and Ato Boldon, learn from the way they trained, how they talked, and admired them. After that, we performed well at the 2002 Asian Games based on what we learnt from those athletes,” he added.

Menezes also feels that athletes experience a different sort of pressure in the build-up to the Olympics. 

“When you go to the Olympics, the media gives you attention along with your loved ones. Even those who don’t know you talk about you. I was the first person from my Thane district (in Maharashtra) to go to the Olympics. 

“In 1998, I ran faster than Milkha Singh in 200m. Our dream then was to just go to the Olympics. Now it has evolved into the dream of winning a medal for India and not only participating,” Menezes said.

After labeling the Olympics as the world's biggest game show, Anand touched on the mental pressures that athletes have to cope with.

“In sports psychology, mental toughness is the most important part. The athletes are under a lot of pressure to perform well. For example, Neeraj Chopra will be preparing to his best capacity before his event but there would be a day when his practice has not gone right and the pressure automatically seeps in. This is the world's biggest game show. Here, the world is watching you, especially India,” Menezes said.

“There is also a lot of mental pressure due to social media where everything is updated regularly about how you train, what to eat, where you are going, etc. The Government of India, Athletics Federation of India, and other concerned people do understand this and are providing the best team possible to our athletes,” he added. 

While discussing Neeraj Chopra’s biggest javelin throw rival Johannes Vetter, Menezes said, “Neeraj has a very good planning strategy with his coach and support staff in place. It all depends on the day's performance. He would be obviously targeting a medal for sure. How he manages to pull it off in those six throws matters the most. So it doesn't matter if the opposition has a better record than him until now.”

Featured photo : Neeraj Chopra / Instagram