Pride and Otherwise

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Michael Phelps, who is now being referred to the greatest Olympian ever has won 7 gold medals at the Beijing Olympics and 12 in all. The indomitable swimmer, whose track record becomes unbeatable with every swim he takes, is going strong and has hopes of winning some medallion in the next Olympics as well and hence is on the path of defying the definition of greatness.

As every news and sports channel cover his great feat, glorify him, he has just about proved nothing really is impossible. A man with a 12000 calorie diet to keep him fuelled for his strenuous five hour daily regime, he has conquered the sport of swimming emerging victorious.

Back home in USA, he has seen encouragement in sports, the will, confidence, courage and trust of others to help him succeed. However, all of this is missing in India. How many of you have even heard of Sandeep Sejwal, our 19 year old swimmer from India who participated alongside Phelps in the Beijing Olympics? A person from a country of a billion would have never felt as lonely as he must have then with no one to cheer for him. We hardly recognize any sporting talent or sports star besides cricket or perhaps tennis. Of course, had he defeated Phelps to win a medal, he would have been garlanded and showered with praises and prizes.

As India rejoices over Bindra’s win of its only gold medal in an individual event, and hopes a similar victory for the boxers Akhil Kumar and Vijendra Kumar, the truth is that these are actually individual feats of people, who happen to be Indians. A lack of sports’ infrastructure, allocation of required funds, ignorance of sports and athletes, nil sports management, and too much focus on cricket has deteriorated the state of sports so much, that it is harder to bounce back. We are a nation of a billion people, a billion talented people who are good at everything, boxing, shooting, tennis, swimming, you name it, we can play it. Then where does the lack of interest come from?

As we hide ourselves in the ignominy of the failure of the revered Indian Hockey Team to qualify for Beijing Olympics, Sania’s consistent failures, dismal performance in most other sports, let us sit and think the government’s contribution towards Sports and our athletes. We as a nation have consistently failed to give our athletes our support and admiration, leave alone opportunities. We seldom encourage our children to participate in sports at the school level, discourage them to take up sports as a career. There is a lack of infrastructure, management and organization, lack of training facilities and encouragement which leads India to the current state it is in.

There is a dire need of support infrastructure for our athletes, India may have achieved 9 % growth and more and may be comparable to China’s growth but our growth, unlike China’s is not holistic. We just grow vertically. Our development is not absorbed in all spheres, it is incomplete, and it just benefits a particular section of society neglecting the rest.

We often compare ourselves with the ‘Dragon’; why not take its example. China has achieved success in all spheres, organized a brilliant Olympics event with world class infrastructure. Not only this- it has, in an organized manner and sports management, trained its athletes to win; to become the country with the largest number of gold medals. To show the world their emerging enormity, their prowess and success.

As India dreams to be the emerging super power, and moves on the path of becoming fully developed, we need to look deep inside and make our growth holistic, a country with a billion people whose talents are nurtured and their skills honed. Because a waste of talent is a waste of pride and resources.

Surbhi Bhatia

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[Image courtesy: http://www.pjlighthouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/how-beijing-2008-olympic-medal-are-made-01.jpg]

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