He won India the first ever individual silver medal in the Olympics. Though his feat was later bettered by Abhinav Bindra who won India’s first individual gold medal, still shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore remains as one of the brightest heroes in India’s sporting history. And his appointment as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports makes him the first sportsperson to become a sports minister in India.
Born in an army family in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, Rajyavardhan Rathore graduated from the National Defence Academy (NDA). He further attended the Indian Military Academy where he was awarded with the Sword of Honor for the best all-round Gentleman Cadet. He was also the recipient of the Sikh Regiment Gold Medal, awarded to the best sportsman of the course.
As an army officer, Rathore was commissioned in the 9th Grenadiers (Mewar) Regiment which his father, Colonel (retd) Lakshman Singh Rathore, once commanded. While serving in the army, he was part of the troop involved in counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir. After successfully completing the assignment for almost 2 years, Rathore’s regiment was awarded with the Army Chief’s Citation and the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Citation for exemplary work.
But a true patriot by heart, Rajyavardhan Rathore wanted to serve his nation more. So he took to double trap shooting in which he started representing his country internationally. A born shooter, it was not difficult for Rathore to make a mark.
His first prominent medal came in 2002 Commonwealth Games at Manchester. Rathore won a Gold Medal and set a new Commonwealth Games Record of 192 targets out of 200. He also won the Team Gold Medal along with Moraad Ali Khan. In 2003, the double-trap shooter came third in World Shooting Championship held in Nicosia. After his triumph in World Championship, Rathore became a serious contender for an Olympic medal in the following year.
The army posted him in Delhi to help him practice in the city’s Tughlaqabad shooting range and the armyman lived up to the expectation by winning the first ever silver medal for India in the Olympics at Athens in 2004. He showed tremendous commitment by moving up from 5th in the qualifiers to win silver in the final.
In 2006, Rajyavardhan Rathore successfully defended his Commonwealth Champion title by winning the gold medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He also won the silver in the team event with Vikram Bhatnagar.
A multiple-times international medal winner, Rajyavardhan Rathore took retirement from the Indian army as a Colonel. But he wanted to serve the nation further and thus joined politics in 2013. Since then, he has been a successful politician-first winning the Lok Sabha constituency from Jaipur in 2014, then being sworn-in as the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and now appointed as the Sports Minister of India.
The 47-year old minister brings with him a vast experience that will play a huge role in India’s medal hunt in 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With sports being a strong focus in India in recent times, Rathore garners the respect and support of the sportspersons across the nation.
After taking over, Rajyavardhan Rathore said, “Sports is state subject. So, we will work with state departments to provide the best opportunities to sportspersons. Will also work for the personality development of youth because that’s the essence of youth ministry.”