Thursday, February 21, 2008

Indian sports - run up to Beijing

Our country is now gripped by the IPL fever. The teams backed by the corporate world are frantically bidding for the world's top cricketers. It is just raining in dollars. The common man is just awestruck at the magnitude of thi new concept. He is happy as long as he gets to see his favourite stars battle it out on the grounds.

In the midst of all this high profile drama, this small news article in the "HINDU" sports section caught my eye -

The article talks about India's performance in the recently concluded Asian Indoor athletics championships in Doha, Qatar. India has finished at the top of the medals table with five gold, nine silver and three bronze medals. This is a very optimistic article praising the achievements of our players and this is indeed an achievement that should be praised.

But the article exudes cautious optimism. It is optimistic about a handful of athletes "qualifying" for the Beijing Olympics, not winning a medal there. A look at the winning times clocked by these athletes explains why.

1. Sinimole’s has clocked 2:03.43 (800m) and 4:15.42 (1500m) in Doha while the Olympic qualification mark is 2:01.30 and 4:08.00 respectively.
2. Chatholi Hamza (1500m) and Sajeesh Joseph and R. Rajeev (800m) are supposed to be quite capable of achieving the Olympic norms of 3:39.00 and 1:47.00. Hamza in particular has come very close with an impressive 3:41.18 for the silver in Doha.

It is very sad that there is not a single sport where qualification to the Olympics is not at all a problem for us. It is not that our athletes cannot perform. But they do not have the necessary support. For every athlete in the top sporting countries, they have coaches, nutritionists, psychiatrists, practice partners, advanced exercise + playing equipments, high tech sporting gears customized specifically for that individual and so on. Our athletes have to depend only on their talent and compete against these well-trained & maintained athletes. Now whatever I've said here will be repeated in so many newspapers and magazines after the Beijing event. Hopefully someone follows it up and acts to provide a solution to this. Let a tiny fraction of the money going to cricket, trickle to other sports.

There are quite a few champions in other sports like Humpy in Chess and illavazhagi in Carrom - She won the world championship last week. I'm not sure how many of us know this. She is the daughter of a daily labourer and hopes that the world championship will help her land a job quickly. How pathetic!!!!! Probably if these sports are included in the Olympics, we might have a chance of winning one more medal.

Given the state of sports now, it is remarkable that we've been winning at least one medal in the past 3 editions of the games. I'm eagerly awaiting the Beijing games. And as usual, I'll be checking the websites every hour to see if at least one Indian sportsperson is in sight of a medal. Hope the day will come when our national anthem is played in the games more than once.
This is a very old article, but it still holds good today:


Raj said...
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Raj said...

A very thought provoking post Vijay. India's failure in the Olympics has always been a concern and nothing much has been done to address it. True more money needs to go into other sports and also care should be taken to see that the money actually goes to the right places.Corruption is something that has been hampering progress.
On another note, just thinking about the Olympics and most of the times clocked etc, these are sports requiring more of body power than skill. Indians are not really made for such sports. Infact our whole race is not naturally athletic. We see how people are built here and we cannot really expect Indians to match up to them.
And if at all we win medals it has been in fields like Archery which involves a lot of skill.So Indians not shining in athletics should not be something to be disappointed about.
Lets hope Sania gets us a medal at Beijing - that would be something to look forward to.

Vijay said...

I don't think we're that bad athletically. Where did people like Malleswari, Kunjarani and P.T. Usha come from? There are thousands of such people waiting to be nurtured and groomed. If proper accessories, guidance and support is given, we can be world beaters in every stage.

Aren't there army people braving all odds and working in the remote mountains of north and north-east? Aren't there laborers and farmers toiling away in the blistering heat? Physical power is not a problem at all. Nothing is impossible.

And even by your line of thought, we should be able to win a handful of medals at least in shooting, Archery and other team games like hockey. even that doesn't seem to happen.