Father Vece on why Leander Paes became an Olympic medallist

Leander won a historic tennis bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and his father Vece Paes, a hockey Olympian, says the family’s sporting culture mattered.

By Rahul Venkat ·

The Paes household knows a thing or two about how to win medals at the Olympics.

The first one to bring one home was Vece Paes, who was part of the Indian hockey team that won bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympics

Twenty-four years later, his son, the legendary Leander Paes won bronze at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, the first and only Olympic medal till date for Indian tennis, and the country’s first individual medal at the Olympics since KD Jadhav’s bronze in 1952.

The Indian Davis Cup stalwart has since gone to win 18 Grand Slam doubles titles and play at five more Olympics, taking his tally to a record seven in total.

And his father revealed the ‘ingredients’ that went into the making of the champion athlete.

“The first thing is the environment he grew up in – one that encouraged a sporting culture – and the inherent talent that Leander had,” Vece Paes revealed in an Instagram Live chat with the Olympic Channel’.

“He became a fast player on the tennis court and I also like to believe he was stubborn. Leander trained three hours a day for six days a week. You need to keep that up if you want to be a champion.”

The ‘never give up’ attitude is something that Leander Paes believed runs in the family.

“It is all inherited,” the Indian tennis veteran laughed. “I can assure you it is all genetics.”

Leander Paes, a father himself, felt his daughter Aiyana shared those traits as well. 

“In terms of the apple not falling far from the tree, you should actually observe my daughter,” said Leander Paes. “She is very similar to my father.” 

The Indian tennis ace added that Aiyana also wanted to play at the Olympics one day and hoped to fulfil a role in her journey in a manner similar to what his father did for him.

The importance of family

Leander Paes has often talked about how polishing his father’s Olympic bronze medal every day inspired him to do the same and joked about how his father would not allow him to sit at the dinner table unless he achieved that feat.

The Indian tennis legend also acknowledged the fact that how his family became an emotional pillar and taught him the responsibility of being a sportsperson.

“I want to bow my head and show gratitude to my parents and sister because I learnt the responsibility of being an Olympic athlete, the responsibility of playing for a billion people and motivating them,” the emotional Leander Paes stated.

“I love my dad and want to thank him and my mother for being such phenomenal parents."