Ours is a cricket-loving nation. That is indubitable. The past few years may have seen football gradually getting its foot in the door (pardon the pun), but in terms of mass appeal and interest, that’s where the buck stops. The field of Indian sports has rather narrow parameters today. The amount of support – financial and otherwise – is gravely lacking when it comes to athletic sports and games.
Interestingly, even the craze for cricket seems reserved only for the national- and international-level competitions. State and college-level competitions don’t get much backing nor spectator interest. Where there are lakhs being spent on televising international competitions, with investments in multiple high-tech cameras and whatnots, state level competitions see a miniscule percentage of financial backing and very poor media coverage.
On one end of the spectrum is the advent of the IPL, which gave cricket furor a whole new glamorous dimension. And at the other end of the spectrum is our ‘national sport’ hockey, which sadly gets played to near-empty stands. It is unsurprising then that Olympic track and field sports such as shot put, javelin throw, discus throw and others like speed walking, luge and air rifle shooting have little backing and still lesser audiences. Even major sporting events like the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics generate meagre levels of interest among sports enthusiasts in India.
It is a sobering truth that Olympic medal aspirants who are immensely talented are struggling to match international levels of competence because they don’t have the kind of facilities and infrastructure their foreign counterparts enjoy. Athletes like Shiva Keshavan (luger), KT Irfan (speed walker), Vikas Gawda (discus thrower), Pooja Ghatkar and Ayonika Paul (air rifle shooters) were lucky to have the NGO Olympic Gold Quest supporting them, helping them get the training and equipment they sorely needed to prepare for the competitions.
It is a crying shame that KT Irfan initially trained without a proper pair of shoes because he couldn’t afford them. Today, this athlete – who is also an army man – is a national-record holder. Pooja Ghatkar made the daring decision to pursue rifle shooting over a mainstream career, even though she knew funds would be a constant struggle for her. She won the gold medal at the Asian Air Gun Championship in Kuwait this March, amongst other successes. Ayonika Paul, an incredibly disciplined athlete, realised she couldn’t ask her parents to fund her sporting career. Today, she has won multiple medals in the Senior National Championships.
These successes and future ones are India’s for the taking. All Indian sports needs is for us to believe in it. All our athletes need is for us to believe in them. The way Olympic Gold Quest has. The way Ketto has. They way you can. Fuel their journey to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Support these amazing athletes and pave a path for a brighter future for Indian sports.
Ketto’s initiative for Indian Sports: http://ogq.ketto.org
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