Odd as it may sound, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is the first sportsperson in Indian history to hold the position of sports minister. What makes this achievement even more significant is the fact that he brought India its first individual silver at the Olympics.
Born in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, he is well known for being an excellent shooter who got India the silver medal in double trap. But the lesser known fact is that growing up, he was equally passionate about cricket. He was selected to play in the Ranji Trophy when he was in class 10 but had to give up the sport as his mother thought he was too young for it.
After graduating from the esteemed National Defence Academy, he joined the army and served in Jammu and Kashmir. A recipient of the ‘Sword of Honor’ in the 1990s, he took voluntary retirement in 2013.
During his time in the military, he was also a double trap shooter who represented India and won many international events. In the Commonwealth Games of 2002 that took place in Manchester, along with winning a medal he also set a new record. Then came the Olympics of 2004 that took place in Athens where Rathore made history by winning silver in men’s double trap shooting. In 2013, after joining the BJP, according to Scroll, he said,
“23 years of my life I have served the nation in war and peace to the best of my ability. I am trained to fight by the finest army of the world and so I must not back out when the nation is faced with a different kind of threat.”
In the 2014 election, Rathore stood against CP Joshi in the Jaipur rural constituency. Despite the fact that his opponent was one of the top Congress leaders, Rathore won the election and was made minister of state for information and broadcasting.
Apart from this, he has to his credit an Arjuna Award, Khel Ratna, and Padma Shri.
Rathore’s appointment as the sports minister of India comes at a time when there is constant criticism against the government for lack of support to sports. Even in the current Budget, the sports ministry has received among the lowest amounts allocated.
At this juncture, Rathore will be looked up to as a person who has been on the ground, who can understand the realities better, and give the support and motivation that India’s sportspersons need. After taking up the role, according to The Indian Express, he said,
“I remember the days when I used to wait at the reception just to enter this building. My ministry will strive to ensure that athletes get sammaan and suvidha (respect and facility).”
It is interesting to note that on the day he was made the sports minister, his son Manavaditya was following in his footsteps and competing at the junior shotgun world championship in Moscow.