It is true that although our country has a population of over a billion now, we as a nation have been disappointing regarding our performances in various sports activities on a world level.
The last Sydney Olympics held in 2000 had us placed at the bottom of the table of 80 medal winning countries equated with countries like Barbados having a population of 2, 69,000 only which is our population figure for a very small town like Mirzapur.
That we were listed at last in the list is in itself quite a surprise because the lone medal winner was Karnam Malleshwari who won a bronze medal in power lifting. She was one athlete who had lost favor with the Indian Olympic Association and was touted as a last minute inclusion with hardly anyone projecting positive results from her but otherwise our sports federations had projected a very rosy picture for our Olympic contingent.
What is surprising is that our sports persons could not even reach the semi-finals in their category. Our hockey teams once the best in the world, now fails to even reach the last four.
The recent 10th World Cup Hockey Tourney concluded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia saw India playing for positions 9 and 10 finally setting for 10thposition even losing to teams like Japan and New Zealand considered minors of World Hockey.
The results are for all to see. Atlanta Olympics 1996 saw us placed eighth, last year we had been placed ninth and this year, a step lower, tenth. Instead of laying the blame on a single individual, we should check our strategies, the physical conditioning of our players and their motivation levels.
Today’s scenario in international sports is of a very high level of physical fitness and a higher level of mental peaking. Mentally our Indian sports persons are nowhere near others and probably the same can be said of physique.
At a certain point of time about four decades ago, India was at least competing in Football but now we are nowhere in the picture. The game has become extremely physical, strategies are planned out keeping in mind each team and its players, the techniques and angles of scoring of most dangerous opposition players are fed into computers and strategies planned accordingly. Each team has its own physiotherapists as well as psychoanalysts who keep the players physically and mentally fit. This is how the French, German and English teams tackle their games against Brazil, Italy, Argentina and other such opposition. The seriousness, with which all this is planned, should be set as examples before our games bodies. It is not as if they are not aware of these trends, but unfortunately with their laid back attitude, putting their personal interests before that of the country, nepotism galore, they are only fit to mouth eloquently instead of elucidating on their own negative qualities. Korea, Japan and Thailand, all physically inferior are competing in the World Cups.
In athletics we have had our Milkha Singhs and P.T. Ushas, both a rarity in 56 years of Independence who if given the support, physical training and mental strength may have achieved wonders but ultimately failed to even fetch a bronze. It obviously proves the adage of ‘slip between the cup and the lip’. But that they at all reached the finals and missed a medal by a whisker speaks volumes of their individual motivation and dedication.
If only our sports bodies had given them the requisite exposure to International competition and the necessary infrastructural facilities that go with it, at the initial stage, may be the results would have been far more positive. Instead of sending substandard athletes to such competitions and draining the public exchequer in their name whilst facilitating the foreign joints of their own family members, these officials should be made responsible for their jobs and without mercy penalized for these very ordinary but glaring lapses. it is just a fluke that prakash Padukone or Pullela Gopichand did win the All England Badminton Title. Our sports bodies deserve little or no credit for their success. While other players had a whole set of motivators and helpers advising and rooting for them. There was hardly anyone from the Indian continent; they must have gone sightseeing which was of more importance to them or even the main-purpose for their going at all.
Even when malleshwari was fighting and lifting for the only medal our country could get at the 2000 Olympics, there was no one official present on the occasion nor even when the medal ceremony was on. Our government is so full of corruption that pulling them up would sound like the pot calling the kettle black. This corruption has seeped into the cores of our sports bodies too, so what better should one expect.
We have even proved the saying of Martin Butterfield wrong. The more people you have, the greater numbers of them are going to have some kind of athletic ability. The results of Sydney Olympics 2000 show that United States has one fourth of our population, won 97 medals. Russia has one seventh of our population, won 88 medals. China having slightly more than our population, won 59 medals while Australia having one fiftieth of our population, won 58 medals.
Obviously they are doing something different. They are taking advantage of technology to create facilities where athletes are imparted training in building different muscles in their body through extensive physical training. Their running start ups and stepping are recorded and fed into computers. The corrections necessary to achieve better results are then punched into laptops for implementation. Athletic talents are done psychologically, physically and mentally to make them peak before the eventual burnouts.
The biggest problem in our sports is politics. The selection, scholarships and representations are mostly politically motivated. This is the reason that several budding sportsmen spend their years of peak in isolation, without recognition, and are complacent with bagging a government job only.
The development of sportsmanship and team spirit is a very important factor in the growth of an individual’s personality. Team games like cricket, football, volley ball and even kabadi, create this team spirit and make the individuals fit for team work in large business houses.
Do we have the time or inclination to bring glory to our country or are we so easily satiated after securing some job in a Public Sector undertaking that we give up on our efforts to be of superlative quality? The answer is on the wall to see.