Bengaluru: Not-for-profit organisation Olympic Gold Quest hoped that at least 25 of the 70 sportspersons they are currently supporting will qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Speaking at a media conference here Tuesday, Geet Sethi, the nine times World billiards champion and an OGQ director, said that OGQ's focus now was totally on the Rio Games and expressed confidence that Indian sportspersons would fare well at the quadrennial event.
Also in attendance were two other OGQ Board members - former badminton star Prakash Padukone and five times World chess champion Viswanathan Anand - while tennis star Leander Paes, also on the Board, could not be present.
"We have come a long way since OGQ first signed up shooter Gagan Narang in 2008. Since then, the number of athletes we support has gone up to 70 of whom 26 are juniors.
"We hope that at least 25 of the athletes OGQ is supporting will qualify for the Rio Olympics," said Sethi who along with Padukone initially launched the OGQ whose Board also includes several Indian corporate bigwigs.
Exhorting the strengths of the OGQ, Padukone said credibility of its Board members and transparency were the USPs of the organization and hoped that the mational sports federations and the Indian Olympic Association would function as efficiently.
"The biggest USP of the OGQ is credibility of the Board members and transparency in its functioning. We let the athletes decide how best they want to utilize the funds that we provide.
"I wish that the sports federations in our country and also the IOA function like the OGQ. Hopefully, some day soon, it will happen," said Padukone.
The former World No.1 Padukone also heaped praised the work put in by OGQ's CEO Viren Rasquinha, a former Indian hockey team captain.
"No doubt, we in the Board take decisions, but it is Viren and his team who implement them. They also interact with the athletes we support and they have built up a fine rapport with the sportspersons," said Padukone.
Anand spoke briefly about his role as a mentor to sportspersons supported by the OGQ and said he learnt a lot himself during interactions with the athletes with whom he shared his experiences.
"I spoke to them about my struggles and experiences and told them to learn the skills they have not mastered. I also shared my emotional experiences with them and, in the process, I learnt a lot myself," he said.
Commonwealth champion boxer Sarita Devi who is also supported by the OGQ profusely thanked the organization for all the support when she wanted it most, especially after the controversy that surrounded her at the 2014 Asian Games when she initially refused to accept the bronze medal claiming she had won the bout against a Korean opponent, but who was declared winner.
"After the Asian Games and the surgery to my hand, I had doubts whether I could come back, but then, OGQ gave me all the support that I needed at that time. God sent the OGQ to me.
"I will do my best at the Rio Olympics to repay the trust and support OGQ has given me by winning a medal. They were there with me when I was down and out after the Asian Games. A big thank you to OGQ," said an emotional Sarita.
In response, Sethi sought to play down the role of OGQ and gave all credit to the boxer for her grit, courage and determination to overcome all the hurdles.
"We came to her when she was down and out. She is a great story of a woman who overcame odds to win medals at the international level. We at the OGQ, which is a one-stop shop, only did our job of supporting her. When they win a medal, they provide us the pride," said Sethi.
Rasquina disclosed that when Sarita Devi fought her semi-final bout in the Asian Games, she was nursing a torn ligament in her wrist that caused her enormous pain every time she punched.
"After the Games, when doctors opened her wrist, they were shocked that Sarita boxed in such pain. Every time she threw a punch, she had severe pain. Yet she fought on and won a medal. We must salute her courage," he said.
The former hockey star pointed out that four of six medals that India won at the 2012 London Olympics by sportspersons were supported by OGQ.
"Presently, we have 70 sportspersons on our roster, among whom 24 are juniors. We are supporting 46 athletes for the Rio Olympics and the others for the Olympics to follow. So, we are looking at both short-term and long-term," said Rasquinha.
The OGQ also felicitated two young badminton players, Lakshya Sen and Rahul Bharadwaj for their recent performances on the international circuit.