The twitter post after winning Gold in 40+ Singles at Racketlon 2023, Thailand Open, says it all. For the champion Gourav Rakshit, it was a hard-earned recognition and a morale booster ahead of the All India Open in March.
On top of the world!!
Gold at the Thailand Open. #Racketlon #Tabletennis #Badminton #Squash #Tennis pic.twitter.com/YoqPPKS8d5
— Gourav Rakshit (@GOURAVGR) January 10, 2023
The preparations were not very different from his regular sport regime. Perhaps a little more effort was made leading up to the event, but he plays four to five times a week in any case, reveals the COO of Viacom18 Digital Ventures, in conversation with Medianews4u.com. By 7am he is usually training for one sport or the other.
It started with football in school and he soon graduated to every ball sport. He was football and rugby captain. When he went to study in the US, he realised that his soccer skills were not good enough to make the university team, so he learnt to play squash. He made it to the university team.
He adds, “There was a period of probably five to ten years when I used to play golf in the US. I came back to India and there was a five-year period when I was working very intensely and took a break from sports in my early thirties. Later, I got back to it. I used to play football (for Shaadi.com); played a few tournaments.”
It was more recently that he took up ‘Racketlon’, which he finds a lot more challenging because one has to play four sports simultaneously back to back – table tennis, squash, badminton and lawn tennis.
“I have been doing this for the last three to four years. I played tournaments in India, internationally, did reasonably well in age-related categories, managed to win medals in many of them. Last year I got to represent India in Vienna at the World Racketlon Championship in 45+ Singles. Just three weeks back I won my first tournament, in the 40+ category in the Thailand Open,” notes Rakshit.
Among the four sports, badminton was the one that he had to cover up and focus on getting better at. With points counted across all four, one can’t afford a weak link, he explains.
“The interesting thing about the sport (Racketlon) is, you have got to figure out which one you can score in versus give away points in, so that makes you come out on top. My better advantage is in squash as I have been playing for the last 10 years competitively in India,” he underlines.
There are challenges ahead. But he is up for them. As he gets older, he is doing more strengthening exercises.
Sports and Work
Orientation through a sportsperson mindset is very valuable in the corporate world, observes Rakshit. Just as in sport, one is always setting goals for the firm, planning and there are larger events that one needs to really amp up for, he adds. The commonalities are many: you learn to deal with failures, reach success, engage with teams.
Viacom18 has a football and cricket team. But the sportsperson is struggling to find time for them, though is part of the football team. When it does fit in the schedule, he hopes to participate. With cricket, timings are admittedly a conflict, given the longer time commitment. He used to play cricket for Nestle at the corporate level in his first job, explains Rakshit.
Nevertheless, he has set an example for those in his workplace and indeed employees across the media and corporate world on balancing a career with passionate pursuit.
There must have been a spark, an inspiration, for one to pursue sport with this level of commitment. A supportive family allows him the joy of sport but it was his dad that he traces the spark back to.
He recalls, “Vivekananda had a quote that said, ‘If you want to be a good man learn to play football’. That was dad’s belief system.”
“In spite of being very accomplished in the corporate world, maybe he thought sport was the way to really embrace other facets of life. Maybe somewhere along the way that filtered to me and I definitely wanted to make him proud.”
He has certainly done his dad and family proud. Even before the Thailand Open win, he had played a couple of tournaments and won medals: 45+ Singles, India Open, Udaipur in 2020 and Mumbai in 2022; Men’s Doubles, Indian Open, Mumbai 2022 included.
He will be playing the All India Open coming up in March in Mumbai, which he is excitedly looking forward to.
“Playing sport is my form of meditation,” surmises the multi-faceted champion of sport.