Right Now, In­dia has a Run­ning Revo­lu­tion Go­ing On

The Economic Times - - Sports -

With nine Olympic and eight World Cham­pi­onship gold medals, Carl Lewis is an icon of mod­ern sport. Named the IOC’s Sports­man of the Century, Lewis was in Ban­ga­lore as the event am­bas­sador for the TCS World 10K. Edited ex­cerpts of an in­ter­view with Gau­rav Kalra: Run­ning is the most sim­plis­tic thing there is in sports, be­cause ev­ery­one does it. It doesn’t mat­ter if you are fast or slow. I love road races be­cause it rep­re­sents the core essence of sports. Right now, In­dia has this run­ning revo­lu­tion go­ing on. When I came here in 1989, there was no way 25,000 run­ners would have par­tic­i­pated in a race like this. The idea of sports be­ing fun, is it im­por­tant to com­mu­ni­cate this to the chil­dren? The in­ter­est­ing thing about this ques­tion is that in the United States, most chil­dren stop sports be­cause it’s not fun. Our ob­jec­tive should be that these young people who get in­volved in sports, stay in in it long enough to find out if they are any good at it. In track and field, In­dia has done well at the Asian and Com­mon­wealth level, but has strug­gled at World Cham­pi­onships and the Olympics. What does it take to make that leap? You need people to be in­spired by. The US has been suc­cess­ful in events that we have been tra­di­tion­ally good at. We were very good in the dis­tances for the long­est time. Then we had less suc­cess and guess what, we stopped win­ning medals. This is a coun­try of over a bil­lion people—there has to be a fast per­son, there has to be a jumper, there has to be a great thrower, there has to be a great dis­tance run­ner. The prob­lem of dop­ing seems to have re­turned in the past cou­ple of years in world ath­let­ics. What can be done? As you know, a lot of the things I talked about three or four years ago came to pass re­cently. I think it is up to the ath­letes to say, we are tired of this and we want the sport that we want be­cause it is an ath­lete’s sport. I put my­self out there way back in the 80s, 90s and even in 2008-9. I didn’t do it based on veiled re­ports, I did it on the ba­sis of is­sues I knew and un­der­stood. They came true be­cause they were right there in front of me. You did raise ques­tions about Ja­maica and now some ath­letes have been given bans for dop­ing. Does that take the sheen off the na­tion as a sprint­ing su­per­power? It doesn’t just take off the sheen. It makes people doubt their per­for­mance. So, when you have a coun­try that did not do any ran­dom test­ing six months leading up to the Lon­don Olympics and then had a tremen­dous Olympics, it does hurt the cred­i­bil­ity. What is your re­la­tion­ship with Usain Bolt—he had said in 2012 that he’d lost re­spect for you? I don’t re­ally know him. He needs to back up now and maybe re­spect me a lit­tle bit more be­cause what I said was true.

When I com­peted, I used to look to see if the sta­dium was full. It was on my watch— how is your sport do­ing, is it grow­ing, is it get­ting bet­ter, is it pros­per­ing? It is the ath­lete’s re­spon­si­bil­ity and I think he (Bolt) could take more of a lead in that re­gard. Bolt has won six Olympic gold medals. In his own mind and in the eyes of the world, he is prob­a­bly a leg­end. How do you as­sess him as an ath­lete? What I love about our sport is that leg­endary sta­tus is earned over time and it’s not some­thing that is given. When Mo­hammed Ali used to talk like that, it was al­ways tongue-in-cheek. I know that as an Amer­i­can, we could never get away with any­thing like that. Can you imag­ine Lebron James say­ing, ‘I am a leg­end’? He wouldn’t do it, be­cause he re­spects the sport and re­spects the other ath­letes.

When you see such an event, does In­dia ap­pear to be tak­ing to the sport of run­ning?

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