Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): There was a time when India was known just for its cricket and hockey players. It had little presence in track and field and other competitive sports and it ended up at the bottom of the medals tally in international sports events including Olympics, Commonwealth and Asian Games.
Now, however, we have Indian boxing, shooting, wrestling, tennis, swimming, equestrian and Javelin stars and our sports persons are returning with medals from competitions abroad.
On the eve of the National Sports Day, Free Press spoke with three Olympians from the city to know how this change has come about.
Chhup kar khelne jana padta tha
Syed Jalaluddin Rizvi |
The constitution of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in 1984 was a turning point in the history of Indian sports. The SAI launched training centres with lodging-boarding facilities for sportspersons, improved coaching standards and began paying attention to sports that were earlier neglected. The players, the SAI and the government - all worked hard for more than two decades and the result is for all to see. We are now excelling in sports such as shooting, javelin throw and the like. But still much remains to be done. Today, we do have playgrounds but the number of stadiums with international facilities is still limited. In Western nations, even schools and colleges have international playgrounds. In the Los Angeles Olympics, most of the matches were played on playgrounds of educational institutions. Another factor is that unlike earlier, now parents encourage their children to take up sports as a career. In our times, playing games was seen as a waste of time. Hamein apne ghar walon se chhup kar khelne jana padta tha...
- Syed Jalaluddin Rizvi, Hockey, Los Angeles Olympics, 1984
Mohammad Sameer Dad |
As a nation, we have always been loving cricket. But over the last few years, we have developed interest in other Olympic sports as well. Now, we take interest in shooting, boxing, wrestling, fencing, javelin throw, tennis, swimming and many other track and field events. The reason why countries like the USA, China and Australia have been doing well in sports internationally is that they don’t focus on one or two sports. Now that we are doing the same, the results are showing. There has been tremendous improvement in sports infrastructures and in facilities provided to the sportspersons. The players are now given international exposure. The Madhya Pradesh Government is also doing a great job in this respect. It is true that nowadays, children are more interested in playing games on their mobiles than in playgrounds but those who are serious are working hard and they are winning medals.
- Mohammad Sameer Dad, Hockey, Sydney Olympics, 2000
Ankit Sharma |
If you compare with the situation prior to 2010, you will find a sea change in the availability of sports infrastructure, the quality of accommodation provided to players and the money spent on them by the governments. Today, our coaches are of international standards and our coaching is scientific and result-oriented. That has brought very good results. Of course, the situation is not that good at the district level or state level but yes, national and international players hardly have any reason to complain.
- Ankit Sharma, high jump, Rio Olympics, 2016