A year after the Rio Olympics is good enough time to provide us pointers about the direction in which Indian sport is headed. This is the time when people are talking about funding for athletes under the TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme). The numbers have reduced, which is a bit surprising, as next year we have the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
On the other hand, the Indian government has been in overdrive mode, with the ambitious OTF (Olympic Task Force) submitting its report to the sports ministry. This was after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the committee to fasttrack their recommendations so that Indians can have a roadmap for winning more medals at the next three Olympics.
At this point of time, to talk about the report submitted by the OTF may be a bit inappropriate as it has not been put out in full in public domain.
There are pointers from the recent World Championships. It includes the ongoing boxing World Championship, the wrestling World Championship and the badminton gala in Glasgow.
Just a quick rewind to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Sushil won bronze. He improved on the colour of the medal in London four years later in 2012. That was the same year when Saina Nehwal won India’s first badminton medal in the Olympics.
From 2012 to 2016, badminton has grown in strength by leaps and bounds. Agreed, in Rio, Sakshi Malik won a last-gasp bronze for the country; however, overall, the results one expected from wrestling have not been up to the mark.
One is not talking just about the on-going World Championship where India has drawn a blank. After Narsingh Yadav’s bronze in the 2015 world championship, the wrestlers have hit the trough. This is indeed disconcerting. For a sport which gets adequate funding from the government, glamour from sponsors and also money from the pro wrestling league, performances should be much better.
The matmen have been disappointing. To be sure, each professional sporting league in the country, which caters more to the television audience, has been tweaked.
To train for the league is different from preparing for mega world events. The Indian wrestlers have obviously not slogged hard. Lure of the lucre and training hard have not happened together and the results — or the lack of it — are there to see.
One would have imagined that after Sakshi’s Malik bronze win in Rio, the grapplers would get motivated further. That has not happened. The federation will also have to share the blame for flogging the old wrestlers.
There is no depth in Indian wrestling and if one looks at what is in store in 2017, with two big events coming up, the scenario is scary. Somewhere, lack of new wrestling talent is standing out like a sore thumb.
In Glasgow, even as the nation rejoices Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu’s bronze medals, the depth in the sport has been fascinating. Here is a sport where the Chinese were so strong at one point of time, the Indians had no chance.
Saina, the flag bearer of Indian badminton, changed the script, with an Olympic medal in 2012 and has added more chapters to it. With Sindhu also in tow, the way Indian women’s badminton has emerged as a force is a fascinating success story.
All this has come by sheer dint of hard work, spending long hours at training, and doing the right things. From a healthy, proper diet to fitness, speed and drills, Indian badminton has become a great success story.
There is no denying the hard work and guidance of Guru P Gopichand and Vimal Kumar, in Hyderabad and Bengaluru respectively. Two more ladies went to the World Championship, Ritpuarna Das and Tanvi Lad. They do not belong to the Saina-Sindhu league.
In the men’s section, India were represented by Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma, Ajay Jayaram. Indian men’s badminton has slowly started rising, and all this has come from sustained efforts.
Coach Gopi’s coaching methods and work ethos is very demanding. Those who are part of his Gachi Bowli academy near Hyderabad say that it’s almost like a boot-camp. But then, that has brought success and made the players look so robust inside the arena.
Badminton players, too, have seen other growth. Their pro league at home is a tough one and there is money. Some rules have been tweaked in it, too. Yet, players have not lost sight of the bigger picture unlike the Indian wrestlers.
As regards Saina’s loss on Saturday to Japanese lightning fast Nozomi Okuhara, it was a match where the Indian had no strategy in the second and third games.
Okuhara was greased lightning and Saina made no effort to slow her opponent down. Watching thousands of miles away from Glasgow on television, it did look Saina had no alternate plan. At 27, you cannot accuse of her not trying hard. One more world championship medal for Saina is something all of us need to feel proud about.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)