The old grouse of sports other than cricket are not receiving support and sportsmen languish are no longer true, as the Commonwealth Games medal haul has shown. Government and private sector programs help young people in their quest for medals
Sudhir Saxena, 30, kick-boxing champion, is still struggling to get noticed, this sport having only been recognized a year ago by the Ministry of Youth. “The recognition has broadened the reach of the sport nationally and internationally. Now it is no longer difficult to find a sponsor as it was before,” says Saxena.
In 2013, Saxena ended her business due to family pressure and started a job in banking to earn a living. At that time, the game was not recognized by the government, so no such jobs or incentives were available for these players.
However, he was destined to return to the game. In 2016, he contested a championship and won it. In 2017, he went to the Asian Championship and waved the Indian flag in the stadium. Since then, he has never looked back. He has bagged over 12 national medals and over 40 state level medals.
He believes that sport should not be practiced as an extra-curricular activity, it should be embraced as a serious activity.
For this to happen, an athlete’s financial concerns must be taken care of. After all, sport is an expensive activity and you need equipment, good nutrition and the right trainer. And you have to travel for the tournaments. A family’s energy and time are also involved – waking up in the wee hours of the morning, dropping off service at the place of training, preparing great meals. In many cases, a parent’s career also takes a step back.
To meet the demands of players, the government has initiated many policies that facilitate the task of athletes. For example, in kick boxing, a bronze medalist receives Rs 8,00,000 per year, and for a silver medalist, he earns Rs 15,00,000. Plus, each tournament pays them smart compensation.
The real game changer is the Khelo India program, which was introduced to promote sports culture in India at grassroots level by creating a strong framework for all sports played in our country and making India a great sports nation.
Talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels by the High-Powered Committee will receive an annual financial aid of Rs 5 lakh per year for eight years.
The Khelo India school games, which are part of the Khelo India program, were first held in January-February 2018 in New Delhi. Athletes under the age of 17 were invited to participate in 16 disciplines: archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, football, gymnastics, hockey, judo, kabaddi, kho-kho, shooting, swimming, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
To boost support for Indian players, in February 2020, the then Minister of Sports and Youth, Kiren Rijiju, announced Khelo India University. In the month of October 2020, the Minister virtually inaugurated eight Khelo India State Centers of Excellence (KISCE) across India. The eight states include: Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland, Karnataka and Odisha.
Hits of success
Navya Singal, a swimmer and first-year psychology student at LSR College, New Delhi, has already won three gold, four silver and two bronze medals at the SGFI National School Games, SFI All India National Club Championships and at the Khelo India Youth Games. “From a sub-junior to a junior and now a senior, my journey here has been good. (It’s about) tough training, reprimands, injuries, rehabilitation, competitions, medals, trophies , jubilation, media interviews, extensive media coverage, stardom at my school all the way through, and all that,” Singal adds.
Swimming is his lifeline. She has been training and competing in swimming for over 12 years now. It has been part of the SAI-Glenmark National Swimming Academy (Talkatora Aquatic Complex) – now a “National Center of Excellence” – since its inception. As it is also a Khelo India training center, all are Khelo India swimmers here.
As more and more people/students focus more on sports, the government is also taking initiatives to maintain and provide infrastructure. “Previously, we used to build state-of-the-art infrastructure for a major event, but after the event, that infrastructure lay dormant. After the Commonwealth Games they converted Talkatora into the National Swimming Association and now the SAI Glenmark National Center of Excellence. Thus, the best swimmers have the opportunity to train here. The same also happens in other sports. So we share that infrastructure for the betterment of athletes,” says Partha Pratim Manjumder, Head Coach, SAI-Glenmark Aquatic Foundation National Center of Excellence.
The New Delhi Center of Excellence has the best hostel facilities for boys and girls. Under the Khelo India program, swimmers’ training and costume expenses are covered by the government. Their tuition is free with an understanding of the nearby Bal Bharti public school branch. Their training, nutrition and even private lessons (optional if parents hire and pay them) are taken care of. Swimmers have easy access to a nutritionist, physiotherapist, doctor and psychologist. The pool complex is complete with an Olympic size pool, warm up pool, dive pool and gymnasium in addition to a well appointed lodge and supporting infrastructure.
Navya adds: “The competition is in the water, outside of it we are a clan and the academy has played its nurturing role to make that happen. Coaches, nutritionist, psychologist, physiotherapists all work as a team to educate each swimmer. They instil a sense of unity in the academy swimmers. This program has benefited many children from modest backgrounds who are among the most successful in India today. Everyone here is just a swimmer and that’s what we celebrate here.
The days when there were no proper coaches and instruments to play with are over. Ruchika Nadkar, 46, a badminton player from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, was a champion of her time. Sport is in his genes. Her father was a Ranji player, her mother was a table tennis player, her husband still plays badminton tournaments, and her daughter Janvi is a shining table tennis star with multiple medals.
“The journey started with the housing company court and I never looked back. I won many championships, but in those days the incentives were nil or very nominal…. We didn’t even pay for the train ticket to get to the tournament. The whole team traveled without tickets to compete in the badminton championship in Hyderabad,” she says, adding, “Personal motivation was the only motivation we were born with.
This is not the current situation. Ruchika’s daughter Janvi is already a force to be reckoned with and at 16 she has competed in over 40 tournaments and won several medals. “I tried all sports and developed a love for table tennis. It was a struggle when my parents were playing. It’s easier for me, because they provide me with everything, including equipment, shoes and good accommodation,” she admits.
The support is extended by the parents also because they see the government (public) and private (corporate) entities coming forward to meet the needs of the players.
Due to the various programs like Khelo India or state government programs, families also support their wards to pursue the sport of their choice. Not only
that, there are many companies that show up to support games like kho-kho, ice hockey, swimming, etc. more than a decade to provide the necessary infrastructure and support to provide a solid platform for the Winter Games in India. As the only true ice sports facility in India available all year round, Iskate is in charge of nurturing young talents in winter sports.
Karan Rai, Business Leader of Iskate By Roseate, says, “Under the guidance of accomplished and experienced coaches, Iskate School offers basic, intermediate and advanced levels of training in winter sports such as hockey. on ice and ice skating. Professional training for Olympic sports like figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey is also offered at the school. The faculty of the school includes All India National coaches and athletes. Training sessions and camps led by international coaches from the United States, Canada, Russia, Korea and Germany are also held at the school. »
“These games depended on Shimla and Gulmarg where the weather was always unpredictable and the venue inaccessible for the ordinary athlete. The skaters had to deal with disappointment every time a championship was canceled due to bad weather. from ISKATE by Roseate we have been able to run camps and championships on a regular basis, previously we were getting 15-20 registrations which is now over 100. The overall response has been great,” said Jagraj Singh Sahney, General Secretary of the Indian Ice Skating Association.
He further explains, “In one year, we have an All India National Championship, several Challenge Cups and Open National Championships – for Figure and Speed Skating individually. In ice skating, we don’t have leagues – we run individual camps and championships.
At least 12 national professional sports leagues have already started in India, and each has a different scale of development. Hockey League is one of India’s most loved and watched games. The Hockey Federation of India conceived the league in 2005, three years before the IPL was held in 2008. However, the league was terminated in 2008 due to corruption allegations against the federation. It was officially launched in 2013.
“The leagues give us visibility of the matches at the international level. In the leagues, we try to involve international players so that our players can learn from them,” says Sriprakash, Hockey Coach at Sports Authority of India (SAI).
The momentum created in all sports is sure to create more podiums.