The primary job of an Army is to protect the country from any extrinsic threats whatsoever, however, the Indian army, over the years has taken up another role. They have taken up several talent generation programmes to help promote Indian sports.If you have a look at our medal winners, so far they have been more than successful. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, India’s first individual Olympic silver medallist post-independence has attributed his success to the Army.One sport in particular, which has done well under their guidance, is shooting. So, let’s have a look at five best Indian sportspersons from the Indian Army.
#1 Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Shooting)
Rathore was a graduate of the National Defence Academy in the early 90’s and served as a member till 2013. He took voluntary retirement from the Army as Colonel, before joining politics.
His political career has been as successful as his sporting career. The 45-year old was recently sworn in as Minister of State (MoS) of the Information and Broadcasting ministry.
Apart from the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, he was also awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for Military excellence
Rathore won three Commonwealth Games gold medals and an Olympic silver for India, highlighting the quality of nurturing being done by the Indian Army.
#2 Milkha Singh (Athletics)
The Army not only played a major role in the growth of Milkha Singh as an athlete, but they also introduced the “flying sikh” to the sport. Singh was the only Indian individual gold medallist in Athletics at an international multi-discipline event until Vikas Gowda in 2014.
However, getting into the Indian Army was not that easy for Singh. He only managed to crack the entry on his fourth attempt. He was introduced to athletics, during his posting in Secunderabad. Singh has in fact acknowledged the army’ role in his development.
He said, "I came from a remote village, I didn't know what running was, or the Olympics. The army helped me learn the sport. “
Singh would go onto repay the Army by winning four Asian Games gold medals, one commonwealth gold and narrowly missing out on Olympic bronze.
#3 Jitu Rai (Shooting)
Born in Nepal, there has been a lot of controversy over Rai’s nationality. However, his entry into the Indian Army has all but proved those rumours wrong.
Based in Lucknow, Rai is being touted as the next Abhinav Bindra, in terms of winning the country an Olympic medal. In 2006, he joined the 11 Gorkha Regiment as a Sepoy. He would eventually reach the post Naib-subedar.
Despite making it into the Army Shooting team, he failed to impress and was sent back. But, it was at the 2011 National Games where he shined.
What was to follow was a string of results, which would see him reach the number one position in the world. Gold medals at the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games have set the Olympic stage perfectly for Rai.
The Army not only gave Rai a sporting career, but also a new lease of life.
#4 Vijay Kumar (Shooting)
In 2010, Kumar was not only India’s, but the Army’s start shooter winning a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. He also won five gold medals at various Commonwealth Games. The 29-year old would go onto win the team event (25m Air Pistol), along with fellow soldier Gurpreet Singh.
Kumar said, “Basically, I am employed with the Indian army. They are taking care of my armoury and have also been training me; plus, I also have a personal coach. The federation, my family and the army have played a big role in my gold medal. The shooting ranges that we have got for practice are world class.”
He serves as a Subedar Major in the Dogra Regiment (16th Batallion).
#5 Ram Singh Yadav (Marathon)
Only the second marathon runner from India to have qualified for the Olympics from India, Yadav serves as a Havildar in the Indian Army. He qualified for the 2012 London Olympics through the Mumbai Marathon, where he finished 12th and well under the Olympic Qualification mark.
At the Olympics, here registered a time of 2:30:06, finishing 78th overall, with his growth trajectory only going upward, let’s hope he makes it into the top 10.