Athletics in India
It would not be an understatement if we start with a statement that sports, especially athletics in India are under-appreciated. I still remember those days when I was participating in sports in my school and the choices were pretty limited – either join Volley Ball or Cricket. Of course having watched so much of cricket on TV, the first natural choice was towards that and then came the other group sports. The last of the lot was concentrated towards athletics.
Even those who went into athletics didn’t have too many people to cheer or support them through and finally it all seemed to fizzle down. Somewhere I feel there is a strong dissociation with atletics as a sport and a strong reason for that might be pointing fingers to the way athletics is promoted or marketed in the country. It might also lead to the fact that not many sponsors are out there to support them. No wonder, India does not get too many medals in Olympics or Asian Games even though it is a country with such a large base of talent and expertise.
I was quite happy to come across the grassroots athletics program by GAIL called the GAIL-Indian Speedstar to unearth and nourish the young talent across the country. GAIL launched the program in collaboration with National Yuva Co-operative society on 22 March to embark on this initiative. The aim is pretty simple – to create a pool of atheletes with abilities and talent to create a database and also possibly provide them adequate training to represent the country at the highest sporting arena – The Olympics. The program is targeted to achieve this goal for the Olympics 2020/24. The program targets the age group 11-17 to participate in the 100, 200 and 400m track events. The panel consists of esteemed guests in the order of like P.T Usha, Rachita Mistry, AnuradhaBiswal & Kavita Raut who play an active role to create selection criteria, develop training plans, and module for selected athletes at the national level.
The program was launched by P.T.Usha, the legend and a star for Indian athletes. The talent identification process started through the district trials, and were tested on the criteria developed by the selection committee. The initial trial runs were conducted in 55 districts across 10 states with a participation of over 25,000 children. The first state level camp was organised in February – Jaipur Sawai Mann Singh stadium where 60 children participated resulting in a selection of 4. Similar trials were held in odisha, Delhi, Kerala and Jharkhand to select 14,28,28 and 4 respectively. Further trials were conducted during April in Maharashtra and Gujarat. These shortlisted children will further participate in National camp and selection scheduled in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for May 2016. Shortlisted athletes from state trials will attend an intensive national level camp.
At the conclusion of the coaching camp, final trials will be held and the winners will be selected based on the qualification criteria and their potential. The winners will be given extensive training throughout the year. The top 9 athletes will then be provided with a world class coaching for over a period of 5 years with an ultimate objective of one of these athletes to represent India at the Olympics.
Found an interesting video on the same:
I think as far the plan is concerned, GAIL seems to have rolled out an ambitious plan and a wonderful CSR initiative to get the young talent organised. It will be interesting to see how it picks up pace and how powerful the final deliverables will be. It is indeed a brave effort and a much needed area to focus on. We wish GAIL hearty success in making a sizeable impact in the field of Indian Athletics.