Reprinted with permission from IndiaPost.com
By Srirekha N. Chakravarty
NEW YORK: For Raj Bhavsar, the US Olympic medal winning gymnast, who has had a gymnastic feat named after him – the Bhavsar – once is obviously not enough. The young achiever, who happens to be the first Indian American athlete to win a medal at the Olympics and the first in gymnastics, continues his gym training while being on the US national team and has come up with two new skills that he wants named after him.
(USA Gymnastics note: Bhavsar was not the first Indian American gymnast to win an Olympic medal. Mohini Bhardwaj won a silver medal with the women’s team in 2004).
At an event to raise funds for the Nanubhai Education Foundation he attended in Manhattan recently, Bhavsar told India Post, " there’s always going to be another Olympics, another bronze or gold medal, but when you come up with your own skill and have it trademarked to your own name, that’s huge."
While "The Bhavsar" is a skill on the rings, one of the new skills he is trying to get trademarked is on the parallel bars and the other is on the rings. "For me it’s a personal goal to leave my mark on this sport forever," he says. Associating himself with a non-profit that’s working on educational programs in rural India, Bhavsar thinks it is an opportunity to give back and share his own experience as an Olympian.
"2008 for me was such a banner year and a lot happened for me," he told India Post. " I was just very fortunate and blessed to attain the goals that I had. As I was standing there on the Olympic podium at Beijing and they draped that medal around my neck, it was a feeling of absolute pure bliss. I told myself then there has to be a way where everybody in the world can share in this at least once or at least have a feeling like this.
"That led me to want to give back." Being of Indian ancestry he says, " I figured it was the perfect time to reach out to India with the way it’s expanding economically and in other areas. India is the place to prosper and it’s becoming more diversified, it’s the perfect time for me to bring sports awareness." Bhavsar thinks the Indian standard of education is very high and that’s what makes Indians very competitive in the real world.
" I want that mentality to carry over into sports and given my recent accomplishments, I want Indian kids to see that it’s attainable." The 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi, Bhavsar says, would be a good opportunity to connect with Indian kids and talk about sports other than cricket. "What India is doing in cricket is phenomenal but I think what they are doing in cricket is a testament to what they can do in all sports," he says.
"I am hoping that I will have the opportunity through the Nanubhai Foundation to get to go visit these kids in the villages, perform some gymnastics for them and talk to them about my Olympic story, about what I had to go through. Here in America, we are given so many resources we almost don’t know what to do with them."
Outside of gymnastics, Bhavsar says he is exploring his " entrepreneurial spirit" and doing whatever he can to use his recent accomplishment to leverage his career. "I have been doing a lot of motivational speaking to kids. Now I want to write a book, which is still in a very exploratory stage.
"But I definitely want to make it happen." But what about the next Olympics – is he going to compete again? He is not telling. "I haven’t decided about the next Olympics, can’t tell anybody yet. We (the US team) have had a banner year in 2004 Olympics where we got the silver; in 2008, we got the bronze, so there’s one color left."