Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju is highly optimistic that by 2028 Olympics, India will finish among the top-10 countries and the preparations to achieve that dream have already started. Also Read - Lockdown Gave me The Chance to Hit The Pause Button: Kothajit Singh

Historically, India, despite its sheer size and population, has under-performed at the Olympics with its best tally being six medals (2 silver and 4 bronze) from the London Games. Till date, there’s been just one individual gold medallist from the country – Abhinav Bindra taking a historic gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also Read - Sports Ministry to do Away With Salary Cap of Rs 2 Lakh For Coaches

From the last edition of the quadrennial event held in Rio, India managed just two medals – a silver to PV Sindhu in badminton singles while a bronze to Sakshi Malik in wrestling. Also Read - Two-Time Olympic Badminton Champion Lin Dan Announces Retirement

But Rijiju expects that tally to swell in Tokyo Olympics itself. “The 2024 Games is a mid-term goal but the long term is 2028. When I became sports minister I had very limited talents, potential Olympic medallists,” Rijiju said during an Instagram chat with table tennis star Manika Batra.

“In 2024, we will have a potential team which can get us maximum medals. But in 2028 I’ve made my mind very clear we have to be in top-10. And I’m not saying just like that. Our preparation has started,” he added.

He further said that they are tapping into the potential of athletes at the junior levels and that a conducive atmosphere is being created.

“Junior athletes are our future champions, we have started our preparation in a solid way. We will see results in 2024 and will make rapid progress. But mark my words, India will be in top-10 in 2028. We are creating a conducive atmosphere, support staff towards that,” he said.

“To create a world champ it will take four to eight years. I’ve laid the foundation now. We have started junior coaching very professionally. We are providing best possible coaching and technical support. It will require four to eight years to become champion,” he added.

Rijiju said despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, the ministry hasn’t stopped the stipends of the athletes.

“We have not stopped the stipends. We have released the money for all the junior athletes too. We have cleared all of them and not a penny is pending,” he said.