India’s first Track & Field Olympic gold at Tokyo by Neeraj Chopra has penned history. A new horizon in sports has emerged amongst the country’s 1.3 billion people, as there was euphoria in every city and village in India. India was also able to haul the maximum medals so far, in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
India had never achieved a track & field gold in the Olympics. In fact the only individual gold won was by Abhinav Bindra for shooting in year 2008. No athlete in the history of Independent India ever won a medal, although Milkha Singh and P T Usha came very close. India’s main sport Men’s Hockey did extremely well too by taking the Bronze. Both women’s hockey and Golf individual Aditi Ashok came very close. In men’s wrestling Punia lifted a Bronze. With India’s performance and public engagement observed this time, it appears India has finally entered the golden age in the field of sports.
India has tremendous talent waiting to be unveiled and discovered. The lack of facilities and training at grassroots has not been able to nurture the talent. A main reason has been lack of interest by corporate sponsors. So far the focus has always been Cricket. All other sports are secondary and pariah to the corporate world, as they don’t appear to offer mileage for their investments. Many rural schools don’t even have play fields forget sports facilities. An example is Village Damdama in Haryana, a mere 65 kms from Delhi, where more than 50 village youngsters are engaged, on their own mettle, in the field of Archery and appear to be quite talented but remain undiscovered. Neither the local school nor the village has a play field.
In spite of such stories of lack, there are several of sports achievements by individual sportspersons including the recent Gold by Neeraj Chopra who happens to be from Haryana. There are wrestlers, boxers and other sportspersons from all over the country who toil and strive to make it. Given proper facilities and training many more would achieve miraculous heights.
The lack of political will and bureaucracy in sports is also killing the nation’s talent and depriving youth from achieving excellence in sports. Many coaches on government payroll who fail to perform and the lack of accountability, is another issue. Their employment needs to be performance based, as in China and US. Wherever the government or sports associations and federations appointed world-class coaches and experts, results are visible, as seen in the recent Olympics.
Delhi government has now announced a Sports University and hopefully it will nurture and produce talent. The time has come for India to take the best examples from US. China, 25 years ago did not have one Olympic Medal and now they are close on the heels of US a leader in world sports.
India also needs to tap resources of PIOs living in US and other countries for sponsorships and building sports infrastructure in rural India. This could become a game changer, not only for sports but for other fields as well.