India' sporting heroes - Looking beyond
Over 16 editions of the Commonwealth Games, India has won a total of 504 medals and is placed fourth in the overall medal tally after Australia, England and Canada. These countries average 100 medals per edition of the CWG, as against India that hauls about 32 medals. In the last four editions of the Games (Manchester, Melbourne, New Delhi & Glasgow), India's average medal haul has increased to 71 medals per edition.
With 66 medals at CWG2018, Indian athletes have delivered encouraging results. Upon some analysis, six key insights are worthy of mention:
#1 Women are an equal party: Women athletes are carrying half the total medal load over the last decade. Their continued success is both encouraging & inspiring, to say the least.
#2 Young blood dominates: The performance of India's youngsters across sports has been noteworthy. They have played a dominant part in India’s success at CWG 2018. They need to be guided, mentored and nurtured for the future. And efforts to identify, select, train and groom youngsters from the grassroots levels have to gain momentum. Talent spotting & identification programs have to be initiated for 8 - 10 years olds across sports.
#3 India's dominant sports: Shooting, Wrestling and Weightlifting have dominated India's efforts and the medals tally over the last 20 years and brought in 66% of the medals.
#4: India's emerging sports: Boxing, Table Tennis & Badminton are slowing emerging as India's strengths on the international stage, bringing in 19% of our medal's tally.
#5: New sports focus needed: Athletics and Swimming constitute 85 medal opportunities where Indians have completely failed to make a mark. Over the years, India averages 3 medals per CWG in Athletes and Swimming has brought in only 1 Bronze medal.
#6: Newfound mental toughness in crunch/pressure situations: This has been a complete revelation to all. India's athletes have dealt with the performance pressure, relied on their self belief, trusted their training, been extremely disciplined and focussed, and therefore delivered these exceptional results.
But keep in mind that the competition at the Jakarta Asian Games 2018 and Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be extremely stiff. And this is what will make the difference between winning and losing a medal.
Clearly, the desire to compete and excel on the world stage is very much alive and kicking. This success will further fuel the fire to train harder, with one eye, on the future. For now, India has to celebrate this success and ensure each one of these national heroes, on their return, is made to feel like a national icon and given their due.
As India's athletes rest and recuperate over the next few weeks, the gamekeepers of this nation must set together to evaluate and scrutinize India’s performance at the CWG 2018. This scrutiny is important, not to find faults but to plan ahead.
And for this purpose, an independent council needs to be constituted immediately by and reporting to the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports. The focus of this council, as well as the key areas of focus and attention, are captured diagrammatically below:
Looking forward - Asian Games 2018 and Tokyo Olympics 2020
The government has put together a Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) list, that may include some youngsters. However, there needs to be special focus and attention to India's top emerging talent.
I have been able to identify 71 Athletes in the Under 25 age category in 11 Sports Disciplines. India has to find a way to groom & enable these individuals towards national sporting glory. This is captured below:
These athletes need much more support. While the government provides some financial assistance, Corporate India needs to do more. The private sector has to find a way to leverage these athletes as a means of promoting patronage, reputation and brand.
In other countries, the efforts to identify, select and train athletes start in the 8-10-year-olds. India is not there yet. For now, Khelo India targets the Under 17 age category. And efforts are underway to include the age groups under 17 years under the ambit of Khelo India. However, this will take a few years before efforts bear fruit.