The 46-year-old legend is training hard for the upcoming Tokyo games.
Leander Paes is a renowned personality in the tennis circuit after gaining prominence with a successful career in the doubles category. The tennis ace has won eight Grand Slam doubles titles and ten Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Though such a glittering career seemed like a distant possibility growing up for Paes after he was told by doctors that he would never play sports owing to a heart problem.
However, that did not deter his inexorable drive to play at the highest level as he pushed his limits and proceeded to tear down all the barriers set in front of him. “Growing up, I had a micro-valve issue in my heart and a hundred doctors told me I’d never ever play sports. And I always wanted to play at the Olympics,” said Leander Paes to Olympic channel.
He further stressed the importance of mental toughness and determination to achieve one’s goals. He said, “It’s really about mind over matter. If you want to be great at something you can be. You need a lot of passion, hard work, and great discipline to enable you to be a champion.”
Leander Paes first hit headlines when he picked up the bronze medal in the men’s singles tennis at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. He revealed that his medal is placed next to his father’s medal, who himself has won a bronze medal at the Olympics in hockey.
He said, “The medal sits right next to my dad’s 1972 medal. I think that’s appropriate. It’s been a lifetime of hard work. It’s pretty special for me, to have 30 years of playing at the Olympics and emulating my father, it’s been pretty cool. My friends have been the wins within my wins. That’s probably the reason why I have played for so long. It’s just awesome to play and achieve things for India.”
Furthermore, he also stated that his father has had a huge influence on him and that he grew up idolizing him. “He’s been my example my whole life. He’s been my example to be the best I can be. I wouldn’t have been one per cent of who I am without him. Being from the Indian community with a family like this, you learn the responsibility of being an Olympic athlete, the responsibility of playing for 1.3 billion people and motivating people,” Leander Paes remarked.
Growing up, a young Leander Paes was captivated by his dad’s Olympic medal and took special care of it, which subsequently fuelled his ambition to emulate his Dad and win a medal for his nation.
He said, “Ever since I was a little boy, I used to polish my father’s Olympic medal every Sunday after church, and I always wondered what that medal was all about. And I saw the Olympic Angel on it. I saw a pin on it. I saw the wreath I saw the different ribbon that he had.”
“And for some reason, that medal attracted me more than any other trophies my dad had. And as I grew a little older, I realized what it meant to represent 1.3 billion people from a country like India.”
The tennis veteran was set to take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year before the outbreak of the pandemic led to its inevitable postponement. Turning 47 next month, Leander Paes isn’t getting younger and it will be interesting to see whether he does indeed decide to compete in the rescheduled Olympic games one final time before eventually bidding farewell.