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Volume IconWhat has led to India's sporting success?

Indian sports have come a long way from what it was a decade or so ago. Persistence of sportspersons, backed by govt and private sector efforts, is reflecting in the country's medal tally. Here's more

ImageAkash Podishetty New Delhi
P V Sindhu, Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Saina, India Super Series, badminton, Siri Fort Sports Complex, New Delhi

P V Sindhu plays a shot during her quarterfinal match against Saina Nehwal at the Yonex-Sunrise India Super Series badminton tournament at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: PTI

The list of star athletes vying to become flag bearer for India seems to be getting longer by each passing event. This time too, the Indian Olympic Association had several names after the first choice, Neeraj Chopra, retired hurt.

Finally, while shuffling from the list of three, IOA zeroed in on PV Sindhu -- who marched with the Indian tricolour in Birmingham last night where Commonwealth Games will be held.

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India, with a contingent of 215 athletes across 16 disciplines, will look to better its performance from the last edition of CWG. Over the past decade or so, India has been continuously improving its medal tally.

In a nation, where cricket has overshadowed all other games and is considered a religion, snatching attention for any other stream of sports was very difficult. But not impossible.

A wind of change -- which started to blow at the turn of the 21st century -- swept across most sports disciplines. Most categories, like boxing, wrestling, archery, hockey etc. have given us international stars.

India bettered its best-ever performances consistently in the last three out of four Olympic events, with the highest ever medal tally of seven at Tokyo Games. If we take the CommonWealth Games, as a host nation in 2010, India broke its previous records with 101 medals, standing only behind sporting giant Australia in rankings. The showing was not a blip and was sustained with 66 medals, the second best performance, in Gold Coast 2018 CWG Games. At Asian Games, India has always been a powerhouse and continues to remain so.

And why did it happen? Due to a little push from the government. India’s improved sporting success can partly be attributed to the Sports Authority of India's schemes. Under it promising athletes are being provided with specialised training, state of the art infrastructure and playing facilities, and individualised diet prescribed by trained nutritionists. Currently, 6,586 Boys and 2,639 girls are training in 189 various centers of the country.

The government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme or TOPS, along with the Mission Olympic Cell, was also useful in a big way, where selected athletes get specialised training aligned with individual goals and financial assistance. TOPS athletes PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik won medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Both the government and private sector made a conscious effort to bring in world class coaches, sports doctors and trainers from foreign countries. Over the years, this has made a big difference in performances. Neeraj Chopra, PV Sindhu, Lovlina Borgohain, and Mirabai Chanu, all of who won medals at Olympics were helped by multiple expert foreign coaches and support staff.

Some experts say that the Indian contingent’s excellent show at 2010 CommonWealth Games was the turning point for Indian sport, after which players started getting recognised and private sector funding and investments started pouring in. This was immediately reflected in India’s performance in the London Olympics with two Silver and four bronze medals.

Big corporates and brands like Reliance, JSW Group came forward with unique programmes to support Indian athletes. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the JSW group supported athletes brought home 12 medals. The group is also credited for India's success at Tokyo Olympics, where Neeraj Chopra bagged Gold in track and field segment.

In the recent past, there has also been greater international competitive exposure to Indian athletes with several world class tournaments hosted at home like India Open Boxing tournament and Indian Open Badminton tournament.

Experts say the rise of role models like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Neeraj Chopra, Geeta Phogat have also inspired thousands of young Indians to take up various sports other than cricket.
Conclusion: Despite massive strides, India’s rankings at elite events reflect that we have a long way to go. China had bagged 26 gold medals in Rio Olympics. If both the government and the private sector can build on the foundations laid in the past few years, the country will see many more achievers in world sporting events.

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First Published: Jul 29 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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