Sportifying Bharat Abhiyaan through developing national heroes
A “hero”, as per the dictionary, is a person admired for his / her courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. However, till my teenage years, my understanding of a hero was limited to a Bollywood or a Hollywood superstar, until I realized that a hero can also be a social activist, someone from armed forces, a politician, a common man and / or a sportsperson.
Who is your hero?
Talking about sportspersons, let me ask you a simple question: who is your hero? Did I hear the name Sachin Tendulkar? Well, he has to be, and I will be honest, he is also one of my heroes. I respect his commitment, dedication and the way he sacrificed his life to ensure that we take pride in seeing our tricolour held high and in witnessing this gentleman’s game.
But the credit for ensuring India such a respectable place and making us go crazy about the game also goes to sportspersons such as, Dr. M.E. Pavri, Kumar Shri Ranjit Sinhji, Baloo Palwankar, Vithal Palwankar and C. K. Nayadu. Haven’t heard of these names? Well, they belong to the generation that laid the foundation stone of cricket in India.
These legends have certainly been inspirational, but now they are forgotten heroes. Similarly, we have our heroes, some forgotten and some still in memory, in almost all sporting games, such as Major Dhyan Chand (hockey), Ramesh Krishnan (tennis), Bula Choudhury (swimming), Prakash Padukone (badminton), P.T. Usha (track and field) and Milkha Singh (track and field). It would not have been that difficult for you to recall these names.
Heroes of Indian sport
However, let me present a brief profile of some of our heroes to check if you still remember them or have they vanished from your memory.
Lavy Pinto or Lavinia Tome is the first Indian to win a gold medal in 100 and 200 metre categories in the first ever Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951.
Parduman Singh Brar won a gold medal in shot put as well as discus throw events in the 1954 Asian Games in Manila, a gold medal in the shot put and bronze in the discus throw events in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, and a silver medal in discus throw in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta. In the year 2007, he died penniless in his native village in Punjab after a prolonged illness.
Makhan Singh won gold and silver medal at the 1962 Asian Games. He defeated the legendary Milkha Singh at the 1962 National Games in Calcutta and subsequently took his tally to a total of 16 medals in the National Games. But after losing a leg in an accident, his life went on a downward spiral. He died in utter poverty in 2002 and his wife has since been forced to pledge all his medals.
Mohammed Yousuf Khan, an Indian footballer, represented India in the 1962 Asian Games, and helped India beat South Korea to win the gold medal. He also represented India at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Kamaljeet Sandhu was the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at any Asian Games. She won a gold medal at 1970 Asian Games in 400 metre race. She was also the first Indian woman to reach the finals of an Olympic athletics event.
Geeta Zutshi established several national and Asian running records in 800 and 1500 metre track events. She won the women's 800 metre gold medal in the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok, silver medals in 800 metres in 1982, and silver in 1500 metres at both the 1978 and 1982 Asian Games.
Were you able to recall any of these names? I am sure most of you did not; a majority of our heroes of track and field events have disappeared from memory because of the fact that you and I have ignored them.
To make it worse, let me enlighten you with some more facts: India is the founder of the Asian Games and has been participating since 1951. India ranked second in the inaugural session, winning 30 percent of the medals on offer, which till date has been its best performance.
The worst performance was in 1990, wherein, India stood 11th, winning only 2.36 percent of the medals on offer. During the last five Asian Games, India had ranked between 6th and 9th position, winning on an average 3.5 percent of the medals on offer.
India’s record compared to other nations
In comparison to other countries, India, till date has won 602 medals, vis-à-vis China’s 2,895, Japan’s 2,850, and South Korea’s 2,063 medals. The total medals on offer were 13,744.
The situation in Olympics is no less fascinating. India started participating in Olympics in 1900. Till 2012, India has a record of winning only 26 medals. The break-up is as follows: 11 hockey, 2 Athletics, 4 wrestling, 1 tennis 1 weightlifting, 4 shooting, 2 boxing and 1 badminton. The total medals on offer were 17,578.
Are you feeling shamed and surprised? I am for sure. From the above statistics, it is definite that the story so far has been disappointing. However, one thing is clear: India’s poor performance is not as a result of lack of talent or lack of participation. India is among the nations which have produced some exceptional talents and have participated in almost all major international events.
But then why we haven’t been able to carry forward this legacy? Where did we lose the focus, or maybe, shift our focus to only a few games? Didn’t we have most of the ingredients required to be at a different level?
The reasons are many, which include financial insecurity for the players, limited recognition for sports other than cricket, little support to build up a career after sporting career, limited facilities and funds for the players to prepare for international events, among others.
What India needs to do
You can either debate on the above mentioned points or take some action to bring some change. But, is change possible? How can you assure that a small contribution of yours is big enough to bring a sea change? Well, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.
To begin with, you can support India for Sports (IFS). IFS is India's first athlete-only crowd funding organization dedicated to providing a level playing field to the Indian athletes. The aim is to develop “national heroes” by giving them visibility and arranging for their funds.
At present, IFS is running four campaigns, i.e. raising funds for four Indian athletes. You can visit their website www.indiaforsports.com to provide your support. Remember the “two S” – Support and Spread. Support their cause and Spread their message in developing “national heroes”.
Like our Prime Minister who has taken a pledge to ensure cleanliness by launching “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan”, the IFS team has taken a pledge to sportify India through “Sportifying Bharat Abhiyaan”.