|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, March 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Abhinav aims for Olympic gold
M. S. Unnikrishnan
Sporting prowess, they say, is genetically inherited. For the genes to develop and flourish, however, nourishment is very essential. Sadly, in a country of India’s continental magnitude, sporting genes wither away at infancy, due to the lack of a collective will to pick and support talent, in the absence of a well-entrenched institutional support system.
Centre has no money to spare for sports
IABF to introduce boxing
at school level
Abhinav aims for Olympic gold
Sporting prowess, they say, is genetically inherited. For the genes to develop and flourish, however, nourishment is very essential.
Sadly, in a country of India’s continental magnitude, sporting genes wither away at infancy, due to the lack of a collective will to pick and support talent, in the absence of a well-entrenched institutional support system.
A country woefully lacking in sporting heroes and icons, the emergence of shooting star Abhinav Bindra has come as a streak of silver lining on the bleak sporting horizon of India.
But even Abhinav Bindra, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, has found the going tough as one can progress only so much, without the backing of government patronage, which stops you just short of your target.
For, to reach the summit, you just cannot afford to plough a lonely furrow. The government, or whichever authority it may be, has to pitch in with its might, for the likes of Bindra to realise their dreams.
The teenaged Abhinav Bindra, who returned home recently after a dream run in the European rifle shooting circuit, has set his sights on an Olympic gold, three years from now. But he just would not be able to reach where he wants, unless the government loosens its purse strings, and comes to his aid.
“I have exhausted all my savings”, said Abhinav’s father, Dr A S Bindra. The senior Bindra, himself a shooter of some pedigree, has borne the brunt of Abhinav’s shooting expenses thus far, but the doting father asserts that his talented son can bloom to his full potential and fulfil his cherished dream of bringing an Olympic gold, only if the government extends timely help, and acts now.
Fortunately for Abhinav and his ilk, the Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Ms Uma Bharati, is a willing listener who is amenable to reason, and is prepared to circumvent bureaucratic red tape, to provide the maximum possible help from the government’s side, for the smooth preparation of his Olympic odyssey.
Abhinav shot six gold, four silver and two bronze medals during the European circuit tour to be adjudged the “overall European champion and the first shooter ever to have bagged so many medals in one circuit”. But without belittling Abhinav’s feat, it must be noted that the European circuit did not have any championship event, and his real test will come only when he competes in meets like the Asian Games, the World Championships and the Olympic Games, where the stakes are high.
But the European circuit helped Abhinav establish himself as a shooter of world standard, who needs a little more of polishing before he hits the big league, and the bull’s eye. Abhinav has submitted a Rs 1 crore package to the Union Sports Minister, and the Minister’s reaction has been sympathetic and supportive, though the government has its own constraints when it comes to funds, and that too if it has to expend so much on just one player, howsoever talented he may be.
Abhinav’s foremost demand is to have a foreign coach of his choice. Foreign coaches, as a tribe, come with a huge price tag, and the coach Abhinav wants to engage is even costlier. Renkel Meir of Germany, one of the best shooting coaches—the best, perhaps—charges a cool $ 400 per day, which is a huge sum, even by European standards. But Abhinav does not want to settle for anything less, and is prepared to go to any extent to train under him, though the Government rules do not permit a salary of more that $ 190 per day to a foreign coach.
Ms Bharati has reacted favourably to Abhinav’s suggestion, as even the government is willing to go the wholehog to get that elusive Olympic gold, whatever may be the cost. She “believes” that Abhinav is “going to bring an Olympic gold”.
The Bindras have been doing whatever best they could to mould Abhinav’s shooting skills, and his proud father beamed from ear to ear when Abhinav returned from Europe with a huge catch of medals.
“We never deprived him of anything. I provided him with the latest equipment available in the world, and all other facilities, but it was an uphill task”, disclosed Dr Bindra.
But now that Abhinav has made a name for himself, the top rifle manufacturers in the world, the 103-year-old German company Walter, is sponsoring all his equipment. The Bindras have their own shooting range in Chandigarh, but is planning a most modern one on a six-acre plot on the Patiala road.
Dr Bindra was happy and proud with his son’s showing in the European circuit as “he has achieved good results at the international level, particularly in Europe, because shooting is basically an European sport”.
Abhinav has chalked out a hectic schedule for himself in the coming months, and he plans to clear the Asian and Commonwealth hurdles before going over the Olympic heights.
Dreaming big? Well, almost. If you have the talent and track record like Abhinav’s, why not? Abhinav Bindra is the new shining star on the Indian sports horizon, and if he is given the right facilities, an Olympic gold will not be a distant dream for India.
Centre has no money to spare for sports
The financial investment by the government in the all-important activity of sport for the year 2001-2002 has been increased to Rs 173.15 crore (Rs 149.39 crore Plan and Rs 23.76 crore non-Plan) from Rs 151.93 crore actually spent last year. The increase is a miserly Rs 21 crore. Deduct Rs 20 crore allocated for the Afro-Asian Games, a one-time project, to be hosted in Delhi this November and the actual increase works out to be a negligible Rs 1 crore.
The budgetary allocation thus says a lot for the interest taken in sports by the government. Considering the vastness of the country and the enormous responsibilities the government has, sports certainly cannot be considered as important as many other aspects of the community in a developing country. The government simply cannot divert funds to sports at the cost of so many other more important projects. But a mere Rs 1 crore increase is not a flattering response from the government.
The message from the government is loud and clear. ‘‘This is what we have in hand and you generate your requirements yourself.’’ And why not? Sports is very important in the contest of the progress of the country but it cannot be made the responsibility of the government, particularly in a poor country like India.
The Budget should be taken as a challenge by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the various federations. A challenge to take steps to generate their own funds. And with more and more politicians showing interest in the matter of sports management it is only natural that they contribute if not in terms of knowledge, certainly in terms of money. Otherwise the question is why are they there if they know neither the game nor its rules?
There is nothing wrong with politicians or top bureaucrats running major sports federations but it must be remembered that they have been roped in only because of the tremendous clout they exercise in industry and elsewhere and can draw advertisements, sponsorships and money for the concerned disciplines. And it must be said that so far most of them have contributed considerably towards the promotion of the games they have taken over.
Apart from cricket most of the other games hardly generate much money and a politician or a bureaucrat has become a must at the head of the federation if the game has to flourish. There are some fresh faces among the heads of a couple of federations, the elections to which were held recently and one hopes they too will be able to help their federations in terms of financial stability.
But here it must be made very clear that no matter how much the federations and their heads can help sustain the various disciplines, the government cannot shy away from its responsibilities. Understandably, the government has some constraints but at the same time its responsibilities extend to more than just funding the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Laxmi Bai National Institute of Physical Education, the two major institutions in the hand of the Centre.
According to reports the SAI ‘‘walks away with about 70 per cent of the amount provided for sports overall and of this 80 per cent goes towards meeting the wages of its staff and only 20 per cent is available for purposes for which it was set-up.’’ And what were the purposes? ‘‘Maintaining infrastructure in the Capital and various other places and conducting coaching camps for Indian squads preparing for international events.’’
Anybody paying money to sustain an institution also carries the responsibility of ensuring that the institution is functioning well and that rules and regulations are followed to the letter. Unfortunately in the case of the SAI, the government appears to have shed its responsibility to a major degree. Apart from appointing heads at the various stages the Centre appears to have little interest in the general working of the SAI.
There are far too many complaints about the working of the SAI. One of them pertains to the maintenance of the infrastructure. One does not have go into details. Just walk into Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the Indira Gandhi Indoor Complex in Delhi. Both are towering structures, praised by one and all when built. Today they are beginning to wear the look of a national shame. The bathrooms are dirty, the seats broken or non-existent, the floors unclean and generally in a state of disuse. Campers lodged in the hostels at the Nehru Stadium always complain of the unclean atmosphere and the lack of running water. Nothing has been done to improve the conditions there. Even national teams in transit have protested bitterly against the conditions in the Nehru Stadium but to no avail. Since it is the government which foots the bill no one is really bothered.
As for the Indira Gandhi Stadium, it was one of the most appreciated structures when built for the Asian Games. Since then it has acquired the dubious distinction of being one of the costliest indoor stadia in the world to leak during the rainy season. In fact its leaky roof caused considerable embarrassment to the Indian hosts during a couple of internationals. I am only referring to the upkeep of two major stadiums, one of which houses the offices of the SAI and IOA and its affiliate federations, virtually. Irrespective of the importance attached to the Nehru Stadium not much is done on it by way of maintenance. One could stretch the point and include the non-availability of the minimum facilities and the overall condition of the National Stadium, the venue of the historic first Asian Games in 1951.
In this stadium was laid one of the first of the Astroturfs for hockey in the country. On that turf was held the hockey competition of the 1982 Asian Games. Since then the turf has been changed once, maybe a second time too, but it still looks tattered. Today, it is the only Astroturf available for hockey in the Capital (the one at Shivaji Stadium is non-functional, as good as non-existent) and whatever major tournaments are held, they are held in the National Stadium. Astroturf requires constant looking after, a lot of water. The latter is not available all the time. What is the government or the SAI doing about it ? The seats in the stadium needs to be changed, as in all the stadia in Delhi.
The SAI has so many responsibilities and perhaps is able to fulfil a few of them. But on the whole this is an organisation which needs to be revamped. There is desperate need to rein in some of the coaches and there is need also to lay more emphasis on the requirements of the trainees. The government's duty does not end with allocating funds. It should also ensure that the funds are properly used.
IABF to introduce boxing
at school level
The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation has drawn up an elaborate programme to promote boxing across the country.
Although the country has in the recent past produced some outstanding pugilists and has even come close to winning medals in the Olympics but boxing has failed to come up as a popular sport.
The sport is not a part of the school games calendar. Boxing has been confined only to a few selected colleges.
Most of these colleges lack the requisite infrastructural and coaching facilities. Most of the outstanding boxers have come from Services, Railways and certain central public undertakings.
The federation has now decided to introduce the sport at the school level on a large scale, according to Mr Rajesh Bhandari, secretary of the national federation. “This will go a long way in spotting talent. It is rather late to start training at the college level when the boys are already 18 years of age or more”, he says.
“The boys have to be educated about the finer aspects of the game and the aim is not to injure the opponent but to outplay him on the strength of skill.” The technical committee of the federation has been asked to take care of this crucial aspect of the sport.
The federation, Mr Bhandari said, had already found sponsors for various championships, which would go a long way in improving the overall standard of the game. The number of domestic tournaments was being increased and the federation planned to host at least two international meets every year to provide exposure to the boxers.
The country had been divided into five zones for the purpose of training. Free coaching camps would be organised at the zonal level and inter-zone tournaments would also be held. Pugilists who excel in these competitions would be given a chance to participate in the national championship.
The federation has also decided to conduct an advanced training course to explain the technical nuances and rules of the game to boxers and referees. Besides boxers, coaches will also be given a better deal.
Preparation for the 2004 Olympics has started in right earnest. A coaching camp would be held soon and the federation would send the team to the Czech Republic in October. The sport is also being promoted among women and after the recently held nationals in Chennai 60 women pugilists had been shortlisted for training.
Chiranjeev Milkha Singh’s long cherished desire of playing alongside Tiger Woods came off although he slipped a bit and finished sixth in the $ 1.5 million Dubai Desert Classic Golf Championship on March 5, 2001.
Playing together, Jeev and Tiger became instant friends. Tiger, who has many Indian acquaintances in the USA, was reportedly impressed by Jeev’s style of play.
Jeev, who had fantastic rounds of 67,66 and 67, could card one under-71 in the final round for an aggregate of 17-under 271. He was five strokes behind winner Thomes Bjorn (Denmark).
Legendary athlete, Milkha Singh, a good golfer himself, was on the course to watch his son Jeev in action. He also had an interaction with Tiger who, when told of Milkha Singh’s athletic exploits in the Olympics was mighty impressed.
Jeev, who pocketed $ 50,000 for his sixth place in the desert meet, is said to be planning to buy a apartment in London to help him further his golf. Maybe, during summer months, he will have home-cooked Punjabi meals, prepared by his mother, Nirmal. Milkha will also play golf and cards in surroundings other than those of the Chandigarh Golf Club and Delhi Golf Club.
After the wrist injury this was Jeev’s best performance in the competitions at home and abroad. Here the competition was tough but the Chandigarh-born 29-year-old maintained his nerves and played as well as one could expect from him. He was more than satisfied with his play although he felt that he could have done better than under-one 71 in the final round.
Panic There is, however, a ray of hope that, if the ITC withdraws some other sponsors may come forward to serve the cause of professional golfers. The chances are remote as there is no one who can step into the shoes of the ITC, which has been sponsoring the Indian Open since 1964. One does not know the exact position. Maybe, the ITC will continue to sponsor under a different brand name. The time will tell. The Millennium Indian Open will be held, as last year, at the Classic Golf Resort (Gurgoan) from march 13 to 16. It will be conducted under the existing brand as it is being held during this financial year. The ban on cigaretee advertising will be imposed from April 1. The field for the Indian Open is very tough. Many renowned golfers will be seen in action. All Indian pros will be playing. Jeev will be conspicuous by his absence as he is reportedly busy in an important tournament abroad.
There is, however, a ray of hope that, if the ITC withdraws some other sponsors may come forward to serve the cause of professional golfers. The chances are remote as there is no one who can step into the shoes of the ITC, which has been sponsoring the Indian Open since 1964.
One does not know the exact position. Maybe, the ITC will continue to sponsor under a different brand name. The time will tell.
The Millennium Indian Open will be held, as last year, at the Classic Golf Resort (Gurgoan) from march 13 to 16. It will be conducted under the existing brand as it is being held during this financial year. The ban on cigaretee advertising will be imposed from April 1.
The field for the Indian Open is very tough. Many renowned golfers will be seen in action. All Indian pros will be playing. Jeev will be conspicuous by his absence as he is reportedly busy in an important tournament abroad.
Corporate golf The competition was absorbing. Arvin Charanjiva was unlucky to have missed his hole-in-one prize. His 7-iron shot on the 18th just chose to stay on the lip of the hole instead of getting inside the cup. He was as disappointed as the on-lookers were. Kapil Dev hit the 290 yards and claimed the long drive contest.
The competition was absorbing. Arvin Charanjiva was unlucky to have missed his hole-in-one prize. His 7-iron shot on the 18th just chose to stay on the lip of the hole instead of getting inside the cup. He was as disappointed as the on-lookers were.
Kapil Dev hit the 290 yards and claimed the long drive contest.
Revive India-Pak sports ties
The comments of ex-Olympic hockey skipper Aslam Sher Khan that the government should make serious efforts to resume sports ties with Pakistan are appropriate. Indian sportspersons got worldwide recognition on Pakistan soil, after performing well. The example of ‘‘Flying Sikh’’ Milkha Singh is a testimony of this fact. Before the Rome Olympics in 1960, an Indian athletcis team, consisting of Milkha Singh and other athletes was invited for a triangular meet involving India Pakistan and Iran at Lahore (Pakistan). Milkha Singh ran 200 metres with such speed that he defeated his Pakistani rival who at that time was well known international named Abdul
Khaliq. He was ahead of him by 10 metres. The people of Pakistan after witnessing this race, gave him the title of ‘‘Flying Sikh’’. The then President of Pakistan, Mr Ayub Khan, came to the ground to congratulate Milkha Singh, who at that time created a new record in 200 metres of 20.7
seconds. NARINDER SINGH
Indian defeat Indeed it was shocking to observe that the Indian cricket team headed by Saurav Ganguly lost the first Test by 10 wickets against Australia at Mumbai. More shocking was the fact that the match ended in three days. The Indian team must realise its responsibility now and put up an improved show. The Australians are not as powerful as they have been made out to
be. SUBHASH C. TANEJA
Indeed it was shocking to observe that the Indian cricket team headed by Saurav Ganguly lost the first Test by 10 wickets against Australia at Mumbai. More shocking was the fact that the match ended in three days. The Indian team must realise its responsibility now and put up an improved show. The Australians are not as powerful as they have been made out to be.
SUBHASH C. TANEJA
Ramesh as opener Saurav Ganguly should open the innings along with Ramesh and Hemang Badani should be included in the playing eleven in place of S.S. Das in the second Test.
V.V.S. Laxman should surrender his batting position to Dinesh Mongia. Moreover Rahul Sangvi may be replaced by Sunil Joshi and pace bowling can be supplemented by including Zaheer or Ashish
Nehre. Harbhajan need not be disturbed. NATHA SINGH
Saurav Ganguly should open the innings along with Ramesh and Hemang Badani should be included in the playing eleven in place of S.S. Das in the second Test. V.V.S. Laxman should surrender his batting position to Dinesh Mongia. Moreover Rahul Sangvi may be replaced by Sunil Joshi and pace bowling can be supplemented by including Zaheer or Ashish Nehre. Harbhajan need not be disturbed.