Indian golfers have reasons to fight harder at Tokyo Olympics - National golf coach Amandeep Johl
Anirban Lahiri, Udayan Mane and Aditi Ashok will lead India's challenge in golf at Tokyo Olympics and coach Amandeep Johl believes they have to fight hard.
India has produced some quality golfers over the years and they have performed well in many international tournaments both in India and overseas. The women golfers have also made their presence felt, but the perception that it is an elite game played by rich people has not drawn a lot of viewership in comparison to other sports.
Now, with golf being a part of the Olympics since 2016, these golfers are also looked at India's medal prospects in the prestigious quadrennial event. In Olympics 2016, played in Rio de Janeiro, three Indian golfers Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chawrasia and Aditi Ashok, represented the country.
In Tokyo Olympics, too there is one change instead of SSP Chawrasia, it is Udayan Mane, while Anirban Lahiri and Aditi Ashok will once again represent India in the Olympics, making their second appearance in the quadrennial event.
But once they are on the course, the expectation from all of them will be the same and that is to win a medal for India. One person who knows all three of them very personally and has observed them for close quarters over the years is India's National Golf Coach Amandeep Johl and according to him, all three of them can win a medal for India.
"I think all three of them have the potential. If you are in form, Anirban Lahiri can take on the best in the world and so can Udayan Mane and Aditi Ashok. So, it is a question of clicking for those four days when competition is happening."
"I am quite hopeful. I think they are all coming in good form. They are playing well and when I spoke to Udayan also, he said I am working pretty hard and I think he is in pretty good form."
"So, it all depends on a little bit of luck definitely. They are capable of winning a medal, that's for sure and I was also talking to the Secretary of Sports and he was pleasantly surprised that we are looking at winning a medal. I explained to him that our sport works differently than other sports. So, if you are in form for those days, then you can beat the best in the world and all these guys are capable." said Amandeep Johl in an exclusive chat with The Bridge.
A lot of Indian and international athletes have excelled at different tournaments and stages but falter at the Olympics as it is an event seen, watched and admired by the entire world. Therefore, the pressure and the expectations are of a different level, but that will not be a problem for them, feels the National coach Amandeep Johl.
"They have been playing on the international stage for far too long. They are comfortable in that atmosphere and they are comfortable amongst those players. They are not intimidated and that's the important thing that there is no intimidation factor. So, they will play their game naturally. So, Udayan does not have experience as Aditi and Anirban, but I have seen him play. That young man is a very good player and I would put him as a dark horse to come and play very well." explained Amandeep Johl while talking exclusively to The Bridge.
Bengaluru-born Aditi Ashok was the youngest on the golf courses of the Rio Olympics 2016. Being the lone Indian golfer on the European Tour and India's best woman golfer, Aditi Ashok made the cut for Tokyo Olympics at the 45th spot in the rankings.
Just like Rio, she is the only female golfer to represent India in Tokyo. Udayan Mane's dream of representing the country was vanishing when Anirban Lahiri was picked for the last available 60th position for the Tokyo Olympics.
Fortunately for him, the Argentine golfer Emiliano Grillo pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics moving his rankings one step higher, making way for India's Mane. All three of them will have an opportunity of winning a medal for the country, a chance which Aditi and Anirban had in Rio but failed to do so and a medal can make them a household name and the pride could be even more than winning any tournament they have won so far.
"I think for all the golfers the first thing which comes to the mind of any golfer is to play for the country. Playing for money and livelihood comes later. Playing for your country for every sportsperson is a far bigger pride and that's what you work for. You want to play for your country and want to win medals for the country. There is no bigger joy than having your national anthem being played." said India's National Coach Amandeep Johl.
Golf being perceived as a rich man's sport or for those who come from a business background and therefore, it did not draw too much of attention from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports as well as from the government.
But the fact is that there are many golfers coming from the service background and on top of that there are many caddies turned who went on to become golfers and with golf coming into the Olympics fold opens a window of opportunities.
"I think many more people are joining the game. The best part of golf coming into the Olympics is that we get better treatment from the government. It is very falsely perceived that golf is an elite game. I keep telling them that it might be an elite game but it is not an elite sport.
The game of golf is different from the sport of golf. The sport of golf is played by people from all vox of life right from caddie boys to service backgrounds. The actual good players are coming from that level, the caddie players, service background.
So, the sport of golf is not elite and the government keeps thinking that it is an elite sport and why should we provide any assistance to those who are playing golf as they are already rich which is not the case. So, golf coming into the Olympics has definitely helped.
I think it will be quite beneficial that India has gotten into both the Olympics. Last time we had three entries again this year we have three entries. Last time it was SSP Chawrasia, Anirban Lahiri and Aditi Ashok and this time it is Udayan Mane, Anirban Lahiri and Aditi Ashok.
So, having two and three entries is very good for the sport. India is doing very well and for a sport which is not given very great treatment by the government or corporate sector." said Amandeep Johl.
Unfortunately, top international golfers have skipped Tokyo Olympics like Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer. In 2016 too, Jordan Spieth and Jason Roy decided to give it a miss taking the charm away from such a prestigious tournament. Similar to tennis the importance to majors is given more than Olympics.
"Definitely for any professional sport you have to understand that in a professional sport grand slam in tennis or in golf the majors are far more important than Olympics there is no two ways about it. That's a professional sport. For anybody whether it is a tennis player or a golfer or any other player for that matter or even a basketball player. You will not hear of any NBA coming to the Olympics as America will win medals hands down because they are paid so highly for professional sport."
"So, they will not come for something which is only for pride. So, that will always be but for countries where golf is not developed those are the countries that will fight harder for the medals. So, you may not get the best players in the world in the Olympics but it will still be a great competition. An Olympics medal will always be an Olympics medal like Justin Rose won the Olympics medal and he treasures it more than five million prize money." believes Amandeep Johl.
Pulling out of big names always comes as an opportunity for the younger ones. Therefore, it is an opportunity for the Indian trio to make the best use of their absence and bag a medal for the country and if they do so then they will create history as last time around in Rio 2016 they came empty-handed.
A medal in golf in Tokyo Olympics will be a huge boost to the sport in India and will encourage more youngsters to pick up the sport.