Leander Paes: Ali told me that it is my job to inspire each and every young child in India

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Image Courtesy: © Twitter - Leander Paes

Leander Paes: Ali told me that it is my job to inspire each and every young child in India

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Amlan Majumdar

06/08/2016

Leander Paes yesterday recalled how, after his bronze at the '96 Atlanta Olympics, Muhammad Ali had told him that it's his job to inspire the millions of Indian kids. Paes also staked his claim to represent India in the men's doubles at Rio after lifting the mixed doubles trophy at the French Open.

Greatness in the sporting world is an elusive entity that no amount of number crunching can answer. But few in the sporting world could ever lay a claim to “the Greatest” and get away without questioning glances. Muhammad Ali transcended the boundary beyond just the sporting world because he managed what few can accomplish – inspire people. Talking about his own brush with destiny, Indian legend Leander Paes said, “He was my idol. When I was 5, I used to dress up like Muhammad Ali and even tweaked his few catch phrases to suit me,” in an exclusive to Deccan Herald.

Paes also had the fortune of coming face to face with his idol right after winning India's only Olympic medal in that 1996 edition–with a torn wrist. "After I had won the bronze at Atlanta, I remember meeting Ali. His voice was a bit weak but he told me that it is your job to inspire each and every young child in your country. He was right. It is my job to motivate that they can also be champions," he said.

Leander Paes also talked about how important this French Open title was for him. Although it completed his career slam in mixed doubles and marked the record for the highest-ever number of mixed doubles titles at 10, along with Martina Navratilova, Paes talked about the larger significance of the medal saying, “I have had a tough period before the French Open. I had to take care of my daughter, who wasn’t well.

“It left me very limited time to prepare for the French Open but thanks to my team I was able to do that. I knew once I made the men’s doubles quarterfinals, Rohan and I would get the direct entry in the Games.

“The French Open was so much important for me otherwise I would not have been standing where I am,” reported Deccan Herald.

(Also read about Leander Paes and Martina Hingis' mixed doubles title triumph at French Open)

Paes also dedicated his win to his father and talked about his gearing up for a record seventh Olympic appearance. “I dedicate it to my father, Dr. Vece Paes. Every trophy that I win is for India and I am proud that I have this opportunity to represent India in the seventh Olympics which is a record,” he said.

Staking his claim for the spot, Paes said, “Both Rohan and I are playing at a very high level. We both reached the quarterfinals of men’s doubles in French Open. My career speaks for itself and Rohan has been playing very well in the last 18 months. We both are at our peak. Without a shadow of doubt, Rohan and I make for the best team for a medal at Olympics”.

Concluding he warned against a repeat of the 2012 Olympic fiasco when he and Rohan Bopanna were caught in a draining battle over who should pair with Sania to represent India at the London Olympics. “We definitely don't want a repeat of London,” he said, reported the Herald.

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