Kolkata: Leander Paes, India’s ageless tennis icon who turned 47 last week, said he used the nearly three months of nation-wide lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic to re-invent himself to be ready for the rigours of the sport.
The Kolkata-born Paes, whose plans for a #OneLastRoar (as he had branded his last year 2020 on the Tour) fell apart due to the pandemic, will now have to re-align his plans to be able to participate in what would be his eighth Olympics appearance in Tokyo next year. The postponed Tokyo Olympics is now slated to take place from July 23-August 8, 2021.
“If I can use this lockdown to enhance my physical fitness which is what I have done. If I can use this lockdown to take a rejuvenated break to take my mind fresh. Last year in September 2019 I looked to retire because I was jaded from 30 years of playing this sport. So I had to reinvent myself,” Paes, the winner of 18 majors, said during a webinar session organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce on Zoom platform.
“I had to read, spend time with my father. I looked to enhance my individual being so that when the lockdown opens up and I do come back to my profession, I am a new version of Leander. I am a new version of that 30 years (of playing) old athlete that’s there,” said Paes.
The flagbearer of Indian tennis for 25 years since winning the 1996 Olympics bronze, Paes gave a sneak preview into his retirement plans: “What moves me is the community. Now in the community, there are many different age brackets and genders and also there are different vehicles that we can use.”
The 47-year-old said he would love to work on physical education classes in schools in India which he feels are ‘archaic’.
“Sports education is one of the things I love doing. In the physical education period in schools, I feel the classes are very archaic. I don’t think physical education classes are dealing with mental stress of exams or mental pressure or depression.
“It does not deal with emotional happiness. I believe that sports psychologists or sports educators like myself can go out there and through the PE classes work with local and private, government schools and sports departments in each state by state...make a difference to each one of our children’s lives.
“This target audience is from the age of 3-25. That is 50 per cent of our population. How we can spend the next one-two decades on changing the philosophy of sports health and mental health,” he added.