August 17, 2018

And the fight continues …..

China, Japan, Russia and US have a history of nurturing talent from early age for Sports. Contrast this, India is a country where Sports administration, Government, Politicians and Corporate want ready made talent with medals to mingle and bask in glory with. Even, if a talent survives the apathy and showcases a prospect to shine, the machinery instead of ensuring this potential gets converted in larger achievement, it works either to ignore or exploit the potential, and in the process possibility remains an unachieved. There are  many cases, where an Olympian or Medal winner in other international sports are compelled to do odd jobs for basic needs of survival, instead of being on field and preparing for next sports event. Sita Sahu, who won two bronze medals at the 2011 Athens Special Olympics, was reported selling ‘Gol Gappa’ in 2013 (Details); we also have many Asha Roy’s or Shanti Devi’s, who are unfortunate examples of Indian Sports administration’s and political apathy (Details) ; and reason why sports is not in Top Ten career choices for students.


Just as, to procure a real sweet fruit, there is a process, and no it doesn’t start and ends at buying from the market; but starts with the sapling to be planted , watered regularly, taken care of, nurtured to be a plant and then to be a tree; A sapling should not be neglected, for it doesn’t bear the fruit, a budding plant can’t be uprooted for not having fruit; patience and perseverance is the key, only after proper gardening, a tree with deeper roots will bear the fruits for long time to come. The same process holds true for every other success and facets of life, especially and more so in the field of sports. It is true, Talent is inherent; it’s also true, Champions are CREATED, by rigorous training, coaching and right guidance. Knee jerks reactions and hollow words of motivation without genuine attempt to assist athletes, the journey will abruptly end at photo ops only, delivering zilch, to either athlete or Nation as a whole.


SahanaKumariSahana Kumari, current national record holder in High Jump and Only Indian (both in male or female category) to represent our country in History of Olympics at #LondonOlympics2012, has a similar story to tell. With help of social media activist and platform, ‘Ek Aur Prayaas’, the apathy and non-cooperation of sports administration was mitigated, both in sense of financial requirement and on ground assistance in the year 2012.


Fast forward to 2016, the administration and political establishment was still in slumber despite a regime change. The administration was not interested in the potential of Sahana way back in 2012 and not even now in 2016; where a proper training and guidance could have improved performance of Sahana, who reached finals of two international events and also represented Indian in Olympics.


The sports administration was more interested in words like *apology* and *request* from athlete; instead of doing work for which official are appointed. Also having two sports administering bodies viz Sports Authority of India and Athletic Federation of India, only fueled ego clash among officials of two bodies, coupled with no communication; and then with no proper training or counseling to the athlete on the basic procedures, only doubled confusion and demotivating of an athlete. A mere letter of acknowledging nationality of athlete, which could assist athlete to represent in international qualifier event, was not issued; leave aside contacting athlete and arranging her participation in the event.


It’s strange in Indian sports establishment, where athlete / sportsperson are treated shabbily by sports official considering their own selves as feudal lords, and athletes as bonded laborers. What is more bizarre is, at the Olympic qualifier event, an athlete is directed to arrange other athlete, if at all the qualifier of that discipline is to be held; So as per sports administration, its athlete responsibility to find herself a coach, athlete has to arrange finance for training, they also have to arrange other athlete for competitive qualifier event, than a basic question does arise, what are the sports officials appointed for?


The request to ever interactive and engaging Prime Minister’s Office seeking intervention and support for the athletePMO received an initial response by way of an acknowledgement and subsequent directing the ministry and administration to look in the matter. However, hopes dashed and evaporated when the request was not followed up by the PMO; and officers took more than 110 days to reply ‘athlete should apply through “National Sports Development Fund’ for financial assistance’ and that also just 36 days before Olympics and 11 days before last day of qualifier for Olympics. Yes, in the age of Digital India, a reply took 110 days. An MP of her state refused to answer phone calls of the writer, who requested to intervene for the National Record Holder and Olympian hope of his state, such is the sad scenario even at political level


The prospect of supporting Sahana died the unnatural death, when the merit and achievement of the athlete was just an ancillary document; but her caste and domicile certificate was more important, for media house to cover the plight of athlete or certain organizations to lend support.


The athletes wish to receive professional and international training, became reality, only with help of few genuine philanthropists  (among few was an retired major donating his part of his OROP),who believed in the cause; also to add few politicians (among them is newly appointed sports minister,whose positive intervention helped athlete to receive legitimate second chance to attempt for Olympic qualification, earlier denied by sports administration) who took the case up on social media; along with few social media activists, along with few alert citizens and bureaucrats from Ministry of External Affairs, who facilitated help for Indian Olympian in foreign land.


No Excuses for Sahana not able to qualify for #RioOlympics2016, inspite of her best attempt and despite of apathy by sports administration. But a food for thought, one must realise the mental and physical agony a athlete undergoes, when there is no institutional support, or financial help or perfect coaching and uncertainity continuously looming; and then to expect winning performance, will only be unfair .


Before the article reaches it logical end, a clarification, this post is not a complaint letter or losing story; it is with determination, fight will continue against all odds; and the sports in India will not be allowed to die. The aim is not to take potshots or blame the inefficiency; rather by exposing the loopholes, it’s a prayer to kindly get house in order. Let the potential not get neglected with remorse of, only *ifs and buts*. Still it’s not very late, and we can create favorable condition with help of proactive political establishment and responsible sports administration, where, Sita Sahu does not have to sell Gol Gappa, but get herself trained for Next event and when we can have more Sahana Kumari’s who doesn’t just represent India, but also reach Medal Podium.


AND, Finally wishing all the BEST, to 100+ Gladiators in Indian Olympic Contingent, who against all odds have succeeded to reach #RioOlympics2016. May Glory and Victory be yours


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