A cred­itable show on the Gold Coast

The Asian Age - - Edit -

In­dian ath­letes emerged with great credit from the Com­mon­wealth Games held on the Gold Coast in Aus­tralia. While the Games are not as com­pet­i­tive as, say, the Asian Games, in which pow­er­house China is also a par­tic­i­pant, the ath­letes did bet­ter than ex­pected in many dis­ci­plines, in­clud­ing in track and field, in which In­dia’s reigning world ju­nior cham­pion Neeraj Cho­pra sent the javelin a gold medal- winning dis­tance of 86.47 me­tres. A third- place fin­ish be­hind Aus­tralia and Eng­land was an­tic­i­pated, but had to be hard fought for, and In­dia’s medal tally is the sec­ond best in Games held abroad. A host of shoot­ers, wrestlers, weightlifters, box­ers, bad­minton stars and ta­ble ten­nis play­ers made di­ver­sity pos­si­ble in a hand­some tally. While the shoot­ers have been con­sis­tent per­form­ers in the past two decades, ath­letes do­ing well in tough dis­ci­plines drowned the old stereo­type of In­dian ath­letes be­ing good at brainy games de­mand­ing soft skill sets but not so hot in sweat­ing it out in phys­i­cally drain­ing dis­ci­plines.

A sea change in terms of a hard­ened at­ti­tude in In­dian sports­peo­ple who are seen to be will­ing to train hard for years in in­ter­na­tional stan­dard pro­grammes has helped, so too their ac­cess to bet­ter equip­ment and di­ets. The old whine about cricket- crazy In­dia not be­ing sup­port­ive of other sports isn’t heard so much nowa­days. Also, of­fi­cial­dom isn’t so am­a­teur­ishly self­ish in their jam­borees abroad at the ex­pense of sports­peo­ple and there’s far less scope for nepo­tism as the se­lec­tion pro­cesses are cleaner. Dis­tin­guished former sports­men ap­pointed to se­lec­tion pan­els also have ready ac­cess to per­for­mance data in or­der to pick the best. In­dian sport has changed for the bet­ter in many ways. The in­cen­tives are gen­er­ous and ac­tu­ally reach sports­men these days, and the younger crop seems to come with a bet­ter men­tal ap­proach than those ham­pered by an older frame­work that seemed to work against ex­cel­lence.

Ex­pe­ri­enced ath­letes like Mary Kom, 35, Sushil Kumar, 34, and Saina Ne­hwal, 28, warmed the cock­les of sports fans’ hearts with their nev­er­say­die spirit. More sig­nif­i­cant, of course, was that emerg­ing ath­letes did so much in winning medals. For in­stance, young shoot­ers Manu Bhaker, Me­huli Ghosh and Anish Bhan­wala sparkled in their nerve­less show of com­pet­ing un­der pres­sure. It’s a pity that the 2022 Games in Birm­ing­ham won’t host this dis­ci­pline.

Promis­ing youth­ful ath­letes ca­pa­ble of putting their best foot for­ward in the heat of in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion rep­re­sent the best sign for In­dian sport. This shows the sys­tem at the grass­roots level is fairer to those will­ing to com­pete. The year’s Asian Games will be tougher com­pe­ti­tion, but the signs are that In­dian sportsper­sons are bet­ter qual­i­fied now to shine than ever be­fore. The women have done the na­tion proud once again, while the men have bounced back af­ter a bad Olympics.

A sea change in terms of a hard­ened at­ti­tude in In­dian sports­peo­ple who are seen to be will­ing to train hard for years in in­ter­na­tional stan­dard pro­grammes has helped, so too their ac­cess to bet­ter equip­ment...

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