Precious Stones From The Commonwealth and Asian Games 2010

For a change, the last few months, Indian newspapers, television/radio channels and internet news were fully dominated by sports other then Cricket. Cricket which always had been the news space grabber had to take a back seat as the Commonwealth Games 2010 settled over Delhi, soon followed by the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

With a few hiccups before the launch, the Commonwealth Games started on a promising note and India for the first time in the history of the games, created a new record by winning the largest tally of medals and retaining its second position in the medal’s tally just behind Australia and one step ahead of England at third position.

In recent times, India has been blooming with emerging sports personalities who’s busy getting themselves noticed in the world and the great medals tally in Commonwealth Games and the recently concluded Asian Games proved that. The government has been highly instrumental in promoting sports other then cricket and hockey and many sports bodies have been set up across the country to tap raw talents from the grass root levels and provide them the best of the training facilities to ensure they excel in the long run and bring glory to India.

Looking back at the two games, Haryana has emerged as the state which has produced the maximum medal winners – 37 from the 101 Commonwealth Games medals and 15 from 64 Asian Games medals. What is with Haryana that produced so many medal winners? Haryana has created a favourable atmosphere for sports and sports persons and ensures that that no talented player in the state has to make any compromise in pursuing sports due to his or her economic condition. To keep up to its vision, Haryana has over 350 sports stadiums not only in towns but also in villages and small blocks. The result: Bhivani district in Haryana has produced boxers and wrestlers of international repute. Shahbad, a small town about 60km from Bhivani has given India more then 40 international hockey players in the last ten years! Even Punjab and other states gave the country some of the best sports persons over the years including in the just concluded games.

But not everyone has been lucky in receiving government grants from an early age, for example, the case being of Anil Kumar, wrestler from Sonepat and medal winner in the Commonwealth Games 2010. In his early days, Anil resided in a peaceful area next to a crematorium and often he would find himself practicing under the watchful eye of his father who was his coach and mentor, on the dusty ground covered with the ashes of the crematorium

Same had been the case with Deepika Kumari, daughter of a rickshaw driver from Jharkhand who won a couple of gold medals in Archery. From an early age, she showed penchant for archery by targeting mangoes on trees and rarely missing it. But to pursue archery, she had to grapple with poverty and hardship and it was only when she enrolled in Arjun Archery Academy in Seraikela-Kharsawa district, did her talent get noticed and then there was no looking back. The result: she became the first individual gold medal winner in archery in the Commonwealth Games.

It’s no wonder that many of the medal winners had a humble existence before they shot into prominence with their raw talents and sporting ability. Identifying talent at an early age and nurturing them has become a government matra and the outings in the just concluded games prove that its not far away when Indian sports persons will dominate the Olympics too.

Boxer Mary Kom’s father had been instrumental in supporting her keen interest in boxing though he had been a bit worried about the expenses involved in training her. The result has been her consistent performance over the years including a medal in the recent Asian Games. Likewise Gita and Babita Singh, two sisters from Bhivani and both wrestlers had their father to thank for. Their father, a wrestler himself was instrumental in training them. Similar was the case with Anita, another wrestler too had the backing of her family when she decided to pursue wrestling as a sport. Like Mary, Anita and the Singh sisters, there are countless other sportspersons and specially amongst the medal winners in the recent two games who’s now in return providing inspirations to the other young men and women that they too can move past their social barriers and emerge victorious in the long run.

Manipur had been another source of medal winners when quite a few Manipuri girls and a boy made a mark in the games. These sports persons back home have braved hurdles and financial problems and drawn inspiration from the strong support of their mothers and sisters and other relatives to excel in sports that few others would have dreamt of.  This new generation of sports persons could yet give the other youths hope and inspiration.

Preeja Sreedharan is another classic example of India’s small town girls, who fought through poverty and poor facilities to bring glory to the country. After her father’s death her elder brother discontinued his studies after the eight standard and worked as a carpenter at Rajakkad in Kerala’s hilly Idukki district. Her mother supplemented his income by working in nearby homes on daily wages. Together they ensured Preeja, her training. Sheer determination and braving hardship while training guaranteed Preeja multiple medals at the just concluded Asian Games.

Kavita Raut, who also won the Commonwealth Games bronze, belongs to a tribal belt near Nashik and took to running only because she knew she could do the running barefoot without spending money on a pair of shoes. While Ashwini who figured in gold-winning runs in the 4×400 relay teams both in the Delhi Commonwealth Games and at Guangzhou, belongs to a farming family from a small hamlet in Karnataka’s Udupi District. It was running barefoot after the cows while herding them that helped her in achieving her dream.

Jayanta Talukdar, an archer was picked up by archery coaches from talent hunting camp in his native place. It was at a training camp in Tata Archery Academy in Jamshedpur that the coaches were impressed with his physical strength and focused attitude.  And then there was Gurpreet Singh and a lot of other sports persons who too got selected for their respective sports through talent hunting camps in their respective zones. If India continued to hold such talent hunt across the country in every sporting discipline possible and nurtured and encouraged these talents and groomed them to be a medal prospect, it won’t be long before India is able to produce winners on par with a country like China that mass produces winners on a regular basis.

It’s also imperative for these medal winners not to rest on the laurels of the wins in the Commonwealth and Asian Games but to think higher in terms of the ultimate win in the Olympics and leave a mark on the world map for others to see and emulate specially the youngsters back in their native villages and towns from where they made their humble beginning. At no stage in the build up to the next Olympic Games, should these winners go slack and lethargic for that can be detrimental to their long term goals as well as create a negative impact on the mind of youngsters who have already started looking up to them as sporting gods and a source of inspiration.

If on the one hand government is spending crores on identifying talented sports persons and a proper training and infrastructure for them, it’s vital for these talents to seriously consider themselves worthy of the cause and the government prerogative for a good number of equally talented coaches to groom them, then definitely India has taken the right direction of winning countless Olympic medals.