Chandigarh, Tuesday, October 13, 1998
Ironmen excelled, shuttlers
best bet in weightlifting
Thirty-year-old Kunjarani Devi from Manipur, rated by the International Weightlifting Federation as one of the greatest 100 lifters of the 20th century, is diminutive and shy, but volatile and gigantic among competitors. Hopefully, she and compatriot Karnam Malleshwari, former world champion, would be Indias best and strong representatives in the 13th Asian Games to be held in Bangkok from December 6 to 20 next.
Bespectacled Kunjarani Devi, at present in the national coaching camp for lifters at the Sports Authority of India Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala, gave an exclusive interview about Indias chances of winning medals in weightlifting in the Asiad.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: How did you develop a fascination for weightlifting?
A. I took up sports way back in 1976 in Manipur. I started playing football, hockey, kho-kho and athletics. I saw P.T. Usha winning individual honours in the 1982 Asian Games. Athletics is individual sports, except relays, where you can measure the distance or timing. I was much inspired by P.T. Usha and accepted her as my model. Thus, in 1983, I took to powerlifting, giving up other sports and games. I won the national title in 1983 in 44 kg classification. I did 75 kg in back squat (and created a new national record); 42.5 in bench press (and created a new national record) and 95 in dead lift (creating a new national record). Powerlifting being a non-Olympic sports discipline, I took up weightlifting in 1985 and won the national title the same year in New Delhi in 44 kg weight classification. Ever since I have been concentrating just on weightlifting and have participated in international competitions, including the World Cup, almost all over the world.
Q. Who have been your early coaches? Initially who trained you?
A. For the 1985 National Games in New Delhi, I was trained by two local coaches: Nemai Chand and N.Kunjakeshwar. I won the title in 44 kg weight classification. Then, in the 1989 national weightlifting camp in Bangalore Arjuna Awardee S.L. Salwan of Sports Authority of India trained me. I did a lot of hard work with him and improved a lot. Hansa Sharma also trained me and I gained a lot of confidence. Since 1993, I am training with Dronacharya awardee P.S. Sandhu and have won laurels for the country at home and abroad many, many times. Besides winning medals in international competition, I won silver medals in the World Cup seven times: 1989 in Manchester, 1991 in Germany, 1992 in Bulgaria, 1994 in Turkey, 1995 in China, 1996 in Warsaw and 1997 in Thailand. I missed the chance of winning a gold medal for my country when the Australian embassy in New Delhi refused to give me the visa to travel to Melbourne to compete in the World Weightlifting Championships. However, I do not hold the Australian embassy responsible for this. May be I had applied late for the visa.
Q. How many times you have won the national titles?
A. I have been winning the national title since 1987 in 44 kg weight category; in 1993, I won the national title in 46 kg weight category; from January 1998, I am competing in 48 kg weight classification.
Q. You have adequately represented India in international weightlifting competitions. Did you ever sustain any kind of injury during the competitions?
A. Yes, I had a problem with my left knee. I got myself operated upon on December 25, 1996, in Saigal Nursing Home in Kailash Colony, New Delhi, and am perfectly alright now.
Q. Have you been adequately compensated by the government for the laurels you have brought to the country and are you fully satisfied?
A. Of course! I got the Arjuna Award in 1992 (for 1990). Last year, I got the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award. Now Birla have announced some award in my name which I shall be getting soon. Awards apart, I have also been honoured in other ways many times. The City Bank in Madras has offered me all financial assistance to train for 2000 Olympics and I am yet to make up my mind to accept it or not. I am much moved by the way people have come forward to extend all kinds of help in my training. It gives me more than satisfaction.
Q. What was your performance in the 1990 and 1994 Asian Games?
A. In the Beijing Asiad in 1990, I won a bronze medal and in the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad too I got a bronze. Altogether, I have won till date 46 gold, silver and bronze medals in international competitions. I am now aiming to win a medal in the Sydney Olympics, and for that I am training hard, both physically and mentally. It is for this reason that I am undergoing yoga training under Gopalananda, a yoga expert from Chennai. Yoga gives you relaxation. It has helped me a lot. I feel very relaxed.
Q. Do you have training facilities in Manipur?
A. In Manipur, I train at the SAG Centre. But the training at the NIS is very good since the facilities are excellent. My training in Bangalore was also very good and so was it in Calcutta and Delhi. I put my heart and soul in my training wherever I train.
Q. What is your family background in sports?
A. I have three brothers and six sisters. My two sisters were very keen in sports: B.Bimla Devi represented her university in throws (javelin and shot put); Padmini Devi, my second sister, represented Manipur in kho-kho in the nationals. Both are now married.
Q. How do you look at the future of women weightlifters in India?
The very fact that only I and Malleshwari qualified for
the 1998 Asiad during the trials held at the NIS on
September 1 tells the story of our upcoming lifters. Our
women lifters should work hard, be modest and polite and
maintain perfect discipline: these attributes will lead
to spectacular results. We will surely win medals in the
Just about 16 years old, Chandigarh air rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra was the youngest participant in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. According to information collected by Abhinav himself during his stay in the Games Village the second youngest participant in the Games was a 17-year-old swimmer from Canada.
A Class XI commerce student of Chandigarhs St Stephens School, Abhinav was the first school student to take part in any Commonwealth Games. He was included in the Indian contingent for being the national champion in the 10-metre air rifle event.
Though Abhinav could not be among the medals the experience he picked up should stand him in good stead in the years to come. He is quick to point out that he could have done better if he had been provided better coaching in the three-week training camp held in Delhi prior to the Commonwealth Games. But then the country does not have a good air rifle coach in the country.
At Kuala Lumpur India had sent a contingent of 17 shooters and four officials. According to Abhinav about 400 shooters in all took part in the shooting events which were held at Langkawi, about 400 km from Kuala Lumpur. A separate village had been established there for the shooters.
At Kuala Lumpur Abhinav had started off well, returning a card of 576 out of 600 in the qualifying round.The qualifying mark was 570. But then in the medal round he could not regain his touch, and finished 18th with a score of 567 out of 600.
But it is good to see that Abhinav is not brooding over his failure at Kuala Lumpur. He has already set his eyes on the forthcoming Asian Games, scheduled to be held in December. He is already training hard and hopes to be included in the Indian squad for the Asiad.
Abhinav is lucky that his family can provide him all he needs by way of equipment (which in any case is very costly, beyond the reach of most shooters). If some equipment comes to the market say in the beginning of a month by the end of the month Abhinav gets the equipment.
Already, his father, Dr A.S.Bindra, an industrialist, has arranged the services of a German coach to train him. Ms Astrid Harpeck, a former world champion in rifle shooting, will come to India once every three months to coach Abhinav. A coach of the National School of Rifle Shooting of Germany, Astrid will draw up the training schedule of Abhinav in the months to come. Abhinavs father is willing to offer the services of Astrid to the National Shooting Association of India provided the association is willing to share the cost of bringing the coach to the country.
with a German coach will not be new for Abhinav. Prior to
the Commonwealth Games and the World Shooting
Championships, Abhinav had undergone a stint of training
in Germany. During the days of his training in Germany he
had also participated in a shooting competition in which
shooters from Luxemburg, Belgium, Germany and Bulgaria
had also taken part. And in that competition Abhinav had
stood first with a score of 584 out of 600.
WITH all the hype and hoopla over the Commonwealth Games now having subsided, the only thing which remains are some lingering images. Amidst all this, it will be interesting to evaluate the performance dished out by the Indians, which was a mix of some high class fare and some run of the mill stuff.
The shuttlers shone, the shooters were bang on target and the ironmen lifted a fair amount of gold. Indian hockey flourished only to flounder in the knockout round, the boxers (barring middleweight Jitender Singh) seemed to have lost their punch, and the cricketers collapsed. This essentially sums up the performance of the 93-strong Indian contingent which made up for the 16th commonwealth games. At the end of the day the Indian report card showed a total of 25 medals, seven golds, 10 silvers and eight bronze. This was two medals more than what the Indians had in their kitty in the last edition of the games, yet the Indians, ironically, slid down a rung lower in the pecking order from the position they achieved in Victoria in 1994.
The Indians did wonderfully well in a sport in which a man comes, powders his hands, lifts some iron, grunts and leaves. Weightlifting is a sport which offers neither art nor beauty, but only unsavoury sounds. Yet amidst all the din the trioka of Satish Rai, D Wilson and A Pandiyan extracted the maximum of gold, winning a total of 13 medals.
If the lifters were brilliant, the boxers seemed to have fallen on bad days. Coach G.S. Sandhu had predicted that in boxing the draw and date is what matters. And he was proved right as neither the draw favoured the Indians nor the form book played true, as three out of the four pugilists were knocked out before reaching the medal round. It was left to middleweight Jitender Singh, who did not succumb to the greatest sporting disease pressure to provide the silver lining to an otherwise drab performance.
How time flies and how jewels and Indian hockey was one turn to dust. Despite being devoured by the Aussie juggernaut in the lung opener, the Indians bounced back in style to reach the last four. And once in the semi-finals the stage was set for Indian hockey to find its feet, but that was not to be as the Malaysians quietly dismantled the Indian machinery to reach the final. After this loss to the hosts, the Indians were still in with a chance of a medal, but the Englishmen for once basked in the sunshine and took the tie-breaker route to pick up the bronze.
On somewhat similar lines was the insipid performance dished out by the hockey eves, who like their men, lost their way once they entered the semi-finals.
Indians had sent half its best cricket team
to Kaula Lumpur (the other half was doing duty in
Toronto), but sadly this best combination of
11 Individuals, having their heart half a world away,
turned out one of its worst performances. And this
despite the presence of Sachin Tendulkar known for
his ability to turn sand into silver.
GOLFERS, professional and renowned amateurs, are as sensitive and determined to improve their technique and skill as cricket stars. Ever striving to eliminate their shortcomings, a group of pros and women amateurs attended Mark Reids coaching clinic at the Classic Golf Resort at Gurgaon recently.
On a business trip to sell the idea of establishing a full-time golf academy on the lines of David Leadbetter Academy, a pro golfer-turned-coach Reid explained to the trainees the importance of orthodox technique which, as in cricket or tennis or badminton or any other sport, helps progress faster than otherwise with none too impressive style and technique.
With a decades experience in coaching after being a pro for nine years, Reid combined theory with demonstration. Bringing into play video with computer, he analysed each pros style and technique and explained to him/her not so obvious defects in his/her grip, stance, swing and the role the body position plays in every shot. The trainees saw their movements and majority of them were convinced in what Reid was trying to explain to them.
Articulate and friendly, Reid was, in a way, a perfect teacher. He displayed monumental patience in dealing with each trainee. His aim was to win their confidence.
Reid was candid in saying that one session was not exactly enough to sort out defects of professional players. There should be follow-up and that is why I will visit Mumbai/Delhi again on two-three occasions, said Reid, adding: I have, however, given very simple exercises on basics of golf and, if the players practice them regularly, there will be sufficient progress in their technique. He was sure of what he was trying to emphasise.
The coaching programme, three days in Mumbai and two days in Gurgaon, was initiated by Shaw Wallace in the hope of lifting the general standard among amateurs and professionals. The programme was in association with David Leadbetter Golf Academy (DLGA) which, according to experts, was one of the leading coaching centres in the world.
Reid was mightly impressed with the classic course which, according to him, was outstanding in every aspect of golf. He felt that it was a right venue for hosting regular training camps. There were, however, some who felt that the distance was killing as, according to golfers, driving for 70-80 minutes from Delhi rendered them tired.
Veteran golfers concede that the Leadbetter Academy is world famous. But they are of the view that renowned Indian coaches should be associated with Leadbetter Academy to undergo training there. They should then train youngsters in different parts of the country. This, according to veteran golfers, will help improve the general standard of golf.
Golf is already a very costly discipline and undergoing training from a foreign coach is all the more exorbitant. Maybe, a very few can take advantage but, by and large, it will be beyond the reach of an average golfer.
There is a plenty of talent in the country but sadly it is not being groomed to flower. This is said about golf and all other disciplines, including hockey. There are many renowned officials who feel that foreign coaches should be imported to train players.
There are, however, a few knowledgeable retired players who feel that there is no need for foreign coaches but what is of paramount importance is that there should be foreign administrators to spread professionalism in implementing the programme and scheme so that talent is groomed instead of his/her being throttled young. There is a lot of force in this observation. Had the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI) been in the hands of professionals, Indian players would not have been deprived of participation in the World Cup.
It is learnt that the International Golf Federation has always been (mis)treating Indian players. In previous years, the organisers provided economy class tickets to Indians while other participants were given business class tickets. This year, the organisers declined to provide any air passage.
All this has been happening because our national body has been a weakling. Had it been a stronger body with stronger men to control it, the organisers could not have played foul with the Indian players.
The PGAI should take up the matter with the powers that-be so that similar shabby treatment is not meted out to players in future. We must learn to safeguard our self-respect, said three veteran golfers.
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