“You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.“
This is one of the most popular quotes of Swami Vivekananda. A healthy mind resides in healthy body and football or for that matter athletics are good sports to keep oneself fit.
Yet, athletics has received very little support and attention in India, both in terms of budget, and media coverage, which in turn has resulted in the lack of quality training and career prospects for the athletes.
Hence, it is not very surprising that the number of world class athletes from India has by far been very few as compared to other countries.
A few facts indicative of the state of Indian athletics:
India had first participated at the Olympic Games in 1900, with a lone athlete Norman Pritchard winning two silver medals in athletics. But, it was not before 1920 that India started sending its national team to compete at the Olympics.
Since then, the total number of medals won by India athletes in Olympics till date remains 26, a abysmally low number for a country with 1.3 billion population. With a history in athletics dating back to the Vedic period, the situation certainly deserves to be better.
The recent selection of Dipa Karmakar, the first Indian Gymnast to qualify for Olympics has given impetus to our hopes.
GAIL-Indian Speedstar for Promotion of Athletics
Now, with promotion of nationally recognised sports, Paralympic sports and Olympic sports being considered as a CSR activity, companies are undertaking promotion of sports as CSR initiatives. We can be hopeful of an improvement in the state of athletics in India.
A case in the point is GAIL-Indian Speedstar, a grassroots athletics program launched by GAIL (India) Limited and National Yuva Cooperative Society (NYCS) on the 22nd of March, 2016 at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi. National Yuva Cooperative Society has tied up with Anglian Medal Hunt Company as its Technical Partner for The GAIL Indian Speedstar project.
Goal : To find and nurture young talent
With a goal
“To strengthen the sport of athletics and create a talent pool through which Indian athletics shines brightly at the 2020 Summer Olympics “
The program is aimed at unearthing and nurturing young talent across the length and breadth of India. The targeted age group is 11 – 17 years in 100m, 200m, and 800m track events across.
A panel of eminent sportspersons like P.T Usha, Rachita Mistry, AnuradhaBiswal & Kavita Raut have been appointed in the selection committee to support selections and guide coaching camps. As members of the selection committee their role would include creating the selection criteria or the GAIL-Indian Speedstar program, and developing the training plan and module for the selected athletes at the National Level.
Earlier this year with initial trials were conducted at 55 districts across 10 states in which more than 25,000 children participated out of which 850 children made it to the State level.
Camp and Selection
The first State level camp and trial was organized on 27-28th of February in SawaiMaan Singh Stadium, Jaipur where 60 boys and girls participated out of which 4 have qualified for the next level. The state trials were held in Odisha (14 Selection), Delhi (28 Selection), Kerala (28 Selection) &Jharkhand(4 Selection)followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat in the last week of April. The shortlisted children from the State trials will then participate in the National camp and selection which is scheduled to be held in May 2016 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. Shortlisted athletes from state trials will attend an intensive national level camp. At the conclusion of the coaching camp, final trials will be held. Winners will be selected based on the qualification criteria and their potential. The winners will be given extensive training throughout the year. The top 9 athletes will then be provided with a world class coaching for over a period of 5 years with an ultimate objective of one of these athletes to represent India at the Olympics.
With an initiative such as this, we hope to see many more sportspersons from India being groomed for bringing laurels to the country.