Indian tennis legend Leander Paes spoke about winning the Olympic bronze medal in 1996 and about growing up with the dream of becoming an Olympic athlete in an interview to the Olympic Channel
Leander Paes on the importance of the Olympic Games
The 47 year old Leander Paes won India’s first individual Olympic medal since 1952 and has played at seven Olympic Games.
The Indian, whose father was also an Olympic medalist, says, "When you play for 1.4 billion people, when you go out there to play the Olympics, it’s a different feeling altogether. I’m an Olympic athlete. Everything I’ve done in my life is to be an Olympic athlete.
I honour my parents, I honour my country, because I’ve played seven Olympics. I prided myself on being a good son, I prided myself on being a good father to my daughter, who now is trying to be an Olympic athlete herself.
Regardless of the 18 Grand Slams I have won, I’m an Olympic athlete. I got to play seven Olympics in tennis for India, and this match epitomises my career. That win was not just for me. That win was not just for my mum and dad who believed in me and gave me the dream.
That win belongs to every kid on this planet who has a dream in their head and wants to be a champion. That win belongs to over a billion Indians around the world who have given me the honour of representing them." Paes lost to American Andre Agassi in the semi-finals and then defeated Fernando Meligeni 3–6, 6–2, 6–4 to win the bronze medal.
“I was trying to keep the rallies as short as possible – I’m chipping and charging, I’m getting to the net. Fernando Meligeni is a southpaw, he’s a baseliner, and he’s got a very unorthodox baseline game.
He tries to keep you running side to side. It’s hard to beat one of your best friends when you know it’s probably the only chance you’re going to have to covet a singles medal in the Olympics. It took a lot of effort, it took a lot of years of hard work to covet this medal.
The epitome of my career is this moment”. Leander Paes owns the record of most doubles wins in the Davis Cup and has won eight doubles and ten mixed doubles Grand Slam titles in his career so far.