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The emergence of Punjab and Haryana as sports powerhouses

Sarah Waris
SENIOR ANALYST
4.00K   //    29 Jul 2014, 11:27 IST
Yogeshwar Dutt displays his gold medal in the 60 Kg category at Delhi 2010 Games

2 States supremacy

With India sending 215 athletes to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (CWG) , it's 2nd largest contingent ever, the nation’s expectations of winning plenty of medals have increased. The 2010 CWG in Delhi saw the host nation winning a record 101 medals. 

Of the 215 players going to Scotland, 90 are from the region of Punjab and Haryana, with 8  players out of 15 in the hockey team alone, and a look at the trends in some of the recent global sporting events will confirm that most medals won by India comes from this region.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, India bagged 3 medals, including a gold by Abhinav Bindra from Chandigarh. Vijender Singh from Bhiwani and Sushil Kumar, with roots in Haryana bagged bronze. The 2010 CWG was no different as out of the 101 medals won, 32 were won by the athletes from Haryana. If this state was an independent country, it would have ranked 5th in the medals tally, ahead of 66 countries. Punjab won 12 medals with four gold.

The 2012 London Olympics was a watershed moment for sports in that region. Out of the 6 medals won, 4 players (Sushil Kumar, Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal and Yogeshwar Dutt ) belonged to Haryana, with silver medallist Vijay Kumar hailing from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.

Good showing in National events

Besides that, the dominance of these two regions can be seen in the National Games as well.  In the Games held in Ranchi in 2011, Punjab with 115 medals including  23 golds were placed 9th and Haryana finishing third, behind Services and Manipur with 115 medals and 42 gold medals.

Some of the medal hopefuls from Haryana who are expected to do the country proud in the coming years are Krishna Poonia and Om Karhana in athletics, Manoj Kumar,  Sumit Sangwan, Pooja Rani in boxing and Sanjeev Rajpoot and Anisa Sayyed in shooting, amongst others.

Reasons for success

These two states comprise only 4.4% of the Indian population, but when it comes to sports, these two collectively occupy one third of the share in India's sporting glories. With 1 out of 3 players in the squad from Haryana or Punjab,  this region has emerged as a powerhouse in Indian sports.

One major reason seen for the success is the determination to rise above poverty and adversity in their life. Most of the players aren't from well to do families and the police jobs offered to sportsmen is a big incentive to perform well.  

Vijender Singh,  the son of a bus driver says the hope of employment is what made him don the gloves. Vijender’s success, which also saw him acting in a Bollywood movie, is what drives almost 250 boxers every year to excel in their respective fields and make a career. With the state reserving almost 3% of government jobs for the athletes, the incentive to perform is high.   

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Ironically, lack of money is also a reason this state produces medal winning athletes. They prefer traditional sports like boxing, wrestling and athletics and look to perfect their craft in what is regarded as "poor man's sport". The government led by Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda has announced a 23 page sports policy which aims to create sports clubs and organise sporting events every year, where they can scout for talents in the 19-29 age category, who are then funded by the state.

Better Infrastructure 

The compulsion of students to take up at least one sport in school is another reason for their success. 171 stadiums with the necessary infrastructure have come up in the last 6 years with full-time experienced coaches. Gagan Narang,  the silver medalist in London states, "Shooting is an expensive sport. But the state has provided excellent ranges with World class equipment and this explains why so many people from the state are taking up the sport."

Apart from that, the government has also offered incentives like free travel and a yearly salary of Rs.5 lakh along with 3% police  jobs reserved for them. The offers extend to the coaches as well. The Olympic medalists received prize money worth Rs. 6.5 crore and the participants received Rs. 11 lakh each.  Wrestler Geeta Phogat, who received 21 lakh says, "The role of government goes a long way in the success of the athletes. Not only do they offer us money, they take an active interest in the game, with the CM even attending some of our matches."

Added incentives

The Haryana players also get cars and plots for their achievements, besides being honoured  with the coveted "Bhim Award" where the greatest sporting icons from the region are felicitated.  In contrast, other states do not honour Indian champions. Ace badminton player Saina Nehwal, who is yet to receive her Olympic prize money from Andhra Pradesh hopes other states can encourage sports like the governments of Haryana and Punjab, so that the nation can have a rich haul of medals, with players from different states to chipping in and making the nation proud.

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