With 8 world-class Rio-bound athletes, North-East India could soon turn into the country's sporting hub
The London Games was an eye-opener that the “Seven Sisters” of India had undiscovered talents in sports, who could add a golden leaf to the sports history of India. 'Magnificent' Mary was indeed one of them.
The ‘Seven Sisters’ has been neglected for a long time. They have been exploited and treated as a colony. We have always heard news about insurgency, drugs, floods, or AFPSA. Iron Sharmila, who will break her fast next month has been refusing food for 16 years. For quite some time, we have been apathetic towards them.
But things have now slightly changed. Although in the past, the states lagged behind in having the right infrastructure, development has seen the light of the day in the past decade. Eight participants from the North-East in the 'greatest show on earth' holds a promising picture of more brilliant performances and news faces in the near future.
The people who have kept on listening 'Are you from China?' or 'Are you from Korea?' have a good reason to celebrate now as eight sons and daughters of North-East will represent the country at Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21.
6.72% of the entire Indian Rio-bound contingent is a huge thing!
While North-East India constitutes only about 3.1% of the total Indian population, the youths out there are well-known for their inclination towards sports. Especially, Manipur is a state that in particular has produced a large proportion of athletes. For Mary Kom, the journey from Manipur to London has not been easy. Neither are the journeys of Sushila Chanu or Dipa Karmakar.
Tripura's Dipa Karmakar has already put India on the world global gymnastics map by winning a medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This year she qualified for the biggest sporting event of the world when she scored a total of 52.698 points in the qualifying event to secure a Rio berth. This is the first time a female gymnast is going to the Games. The last participation by an Indian gymnast (male) at the Olympics was way back in 1964, but during that time, there was no qualification system in place.
Assam's Shiva Thapa is one of the brightest medal prospects at this Games. Four years back, he became the youngest boxer to qualify for the Olympics at the tender age of just 18. Since fighting his first bout in 2005 to being ranked third in the world in the 56-kg category, it has been an exhilarating journey for the 22-year-old boxer.
Manipur will be fielding six athletes in the entire Indian contingent this time. Sushila Chanu will be leading the women's hockey team that has qualified for the first time in 36 years. The captain of the Indian team at the 2013 Junior World Cup has been a veteran of 112 international matches and has previously led the junior squad to glory. The 24-year old has also led the senior team for the first time at the Four Nation Tourney in Australia in June.
Anuradha Devi Thokchum is another member in this historic team who are 10 days away from scripting history. The forward from Manipur has more than 80 international caps to her name and even scored in the 3-1 victory over Canada which happened to be India's final match ahead of the all-important Rio Games.
Chinglensana Singh and Kothajit Singh, who are a part of the men's team have already left for Madrid to play two friendly matches against Spain before heading for the Rio Olympics. Their rejuvenated performances in the recently-concluded Champions Trophy had earned them applause. Both have been a part of the medal-winning Commonwealth Games and Asian Games squad.
Bombayla Devi Laishram will be going to her third straight Olympics after representing India at the Beijing and London Games. She has been a member of the national team for a decade now and is teaming up with Deepika Kumari and Laxmi Rani Majhi to bring that elusive medal in archery from Rio de Janerio.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu has been a consistent performer for India in weightlifting and her hard work bore fruit when she booked an August date in Brazil. The weightlifter who competes in the women's 48 kg category had lifted 85kg in snatch and 107 kg in clean and jerk, which gave her a total of 192kg and helped her qualify for the Games. If Chanu can improve her performance by a couple of kilograms, she would stand a good chance of a podium finish at the Rio Games.
There are a considerable number of players who have contributed significantly to any field of sport from the states of North East. Yes, there are world-class sportspersons in hockey, boxing, archery, and other Olympic sports in this region. And yes, they are an integral part of India and they own India as much as everyone does and they owe to India as much as everyone does.
There is a need of little more attention from the centre. North East India is a region which has tremendous potential in terms of the development of sports in our country. A little more attention and a little more participation from the people can make things better for India in the future.
Till then, let's look forward to an eventful Summer Games where there would be a tighter bond between North-Eastern states and the other states of India. Because North-East is more than green forests, mountains, lakes, rivers and fields.