Tête-à-tête With Adille Sumariwalla

President of the Indian Olympic Association and Executive Board Member/ Jury Member for the Track and Field Sport, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

‘Sports’ is one of life’s most important teachers – it builds character and leads you to excellence. The world of sports births and nurtures remarkable athletes who often leave an inspirational legacy for future generations to follow… like our very own Arjuna Awardee – Adille Sumariwalla, who has brought great pride to the nation and the community in the athletics arena. Adille has represented India at the Asian Games, the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the World University Games. He has won eleven 100m National Titles, seven 200m National Titles and has been a part of seven Relay wins. Further, he has clinched 17 international medals, most prominently an Asian Bronze. 

Adille currently serves as the President of the Athletics Federation of India, Council Member-World Athletics, Vice President of the Indian Olympic Association and is also Executive Board Member/ Jury Member for the track and field Sport at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Olympics in 2021 will still be called Tokyo 2020 games), which will be held from 23rd July – 8th August, 2021. He has been a Jury Member for two Olympics and three World Championships. 

Parsi Times Sports Reporter, Binaisha M. Surti brings to you an exclusive interview with the icon himself – Adille Sumariwalla, where he talks about the Tokyo Olympics 2020, his role as a Jury Member, learnings from his guru Jal Pardivala and lots more… 

PT: Firstly, tell us how you’ve utilized this time through the Pandemic, which brought most activities to a screeching halt?

Adille: We used this time very effectively doing numerous online courses for athletes, coaches, officials, women empowerment etc. We reached out to over 2,50,000 people across 49 countries during the pandemic. Initially, our courses were aimed at bettering and developing Indian athletics, but soon we opened it to people worldwide, as I sit on the World’s Development Commission. So, we used this period to effectively upgrade our knowledge. I personally reached out to 600 plus districts of India to energize them with grassroot level coaching, competitions, talent identification and more. Hence, a lot of them have benefited from these online initiatives. 

PT: How has this impacted the preparations for Tokyo Olympics 2020?

Adille: The preparations could have been better were it not for the pandemic. After the first wave, we had planned to send our athletes abroad for training and competitions, but the situation didn’t allow that. So, they had to stay back and train here, but I still believe we should be able to produce the best performance by our Indian team at the Olympics. We were the only national federation that held the Junior National Championship, the Youth National Championship and the Interstate National Championship. We’ve done all we could, within our means, to ensure that everything goes smoothly for the athletes. Earlier, there were important competitions which the athletes did not get to participate in, this time around. These are very critical for them before an all-important event like the Olympics. As that did not happen, it could have an impact on our athletes. 

PT: How different or difficult will it be for the athletes, in keeping with the new normal, especially adapting to the bio-bubbles? 

Adille: There is a detailed protocol set up, which everyone will have to follow. The athletes would have to go through testing, quarantine for a few days first. All of us will have to stay within the bio-bubble and no one will be allowed to get out of it – no shopping, no going to restaurants…absolutely nothing. Everybody will have to follow the protocol to remain safe. 

PT: Tell us about your prestigious role as a Jury Member for Track and Field Sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

Adille: There are various events, protests, issues every day where somebody has touched the line, crossed the line, side-hurdles, or someone has obstructed another athlete in middle-and-long-distance running or someone is running instead of walking in a particular event, and so on. These issues crop up regularly and need to be resolved. We get into the jury room, look at the replays from 30 different angles. Normally, there are five different Jury Members from five different countries, daily. One has to pay minute attention to every single event that takes place, so yes, it is a hands-on and decisive responsibility. And you prepare by ensuring you know all the rules and regulations. You basically take the rule book and then apply the appropriate and relevant rules.

PT: You’ve had a long and illustrious journey in the field of professional athletics. How have your experiences shaped your life?

Adille: It has been my passion and I have followed my passion completely. The journey has been great! Yes, there were ups and downs, I’ve faced many disappointments, but I’ve survived them all. Immaterial of the field we are in, we should never give up. Keep pushing yourself, think smart, work hard, use all the resources available to overcome difficulties and most importantly, stay consistent. What one has achieved in the past is history, you should always look forward to achieving new things and bettering yourself! Success can go to one’s head if you keep thinking about past laurels. So, focus and work your way into achieving new future goals. 

PT: What teachings from your mentor, Jal Pardivala, have stayed with you for life?

Adille: He always said, think good and good will always happen; think positive, create positivity and positive things will happen around you! He would say, finally one must go out there, fight and give it their best shot. Even today, I always share this with all the athletes.   

PT: How can one encourage more athletes to pursue their dreams productively, so that, as a community and a nation, we can yield a better crop of sports personalities?

Adille: The most important aspect is for athletes to get an opportunity or a break, and that is why we hold Inter-District Athletics Championships, so we can scout and identify good talent, to take to the next level. Last year, before the lockdown, over 500 districts participated, making it globally, the largest grass-root program as of now! There are so many more opportunities for people today… it can be taken up as a career, while in my times, that wasn’t really an option! There are so many leagues and tournaments; the government as well as different associations are employing numerous people in the sports field. Today, there are opportunities in Sports Management, Sports Marketing, Sports Sponsorship, Stadium Management…there are so many new options now. 

PT: How do you think India will fare at the Olympics this year?

Adille: I have told my athletes I want them to perform their best – to give it their best shot, to the best of their abilities… just put in their life’s best performance! I’m not putting any pressure on them, I want them to give their best. As long as they sincerely try and improve on their own performances in India, I am happy. 

PT: You awarded a medal to Usain Bolt during the 2016 Olympics and now the ace sprinter will no longer compete. How do you look at Tokyo 2020 without the man who changed the dynamics of athletics and took sprinting to another level?

Adille: People will come and go, but sports will go on forever. Everyone has his/her grand moments. I don’t think that sports or records are just made or broken by just one individual. I believe it’s a whole gamut of things that happen around. One has to see the records which were broken recently and all of them will be competing in the Olympics. These are things we have to look out for. Though it feels good to bask in previous glories, we all need to move on to greater achievements in the future. 

PT: What are your thoughts on the rich heritage of Parsis in sports. How do we encourage more young Parsis to consider sports as a career option? 

Adille: We have indeed had a rich heritage, but sadly, very few Parsi youngsters are into sports today. Lots of kids are not playing sports or pushing themselves. I think our youth should spend more time on sports. It is good for their body, mind and overall development. There are enough facilities available – they should come forward and take part. One must use every opportunity that is available to do something and excel.

PT: You’ve always maintained that for an athlete, the journey is more significant than the destination… 

Adille: True. One might not win a medal, but the important thing is to excel in whatever you do. It’s all about one’s talent and capacity – not just about winning or losing. It’s more about the journey, than the destination. The journey defines your end result. The final consequence is just a byproduct, the path is most important to attain excellence. 

PT: What would you like to share with budding athletes, your supporters and fans who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Adille: There are so many opportunities available, go and grab them! If you do not, others will. You all are very talented in some way or the other, make the most of it and make a name for yourself and make the community proud! 

Parsi Times wishes Adille Sumariwalla and all our Indian sports personalities all the very best for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics! May they shine in the tournament and keep the Indian flag fluttering high!






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