Do we have the mettle to win more medals?

Col Shiv Choudhary (Retd)
India is a nation of 1.22 billion people with 65 percent population below 35 years of age, yet the medals tally remains below one medal per Olympics. We have strange habits of inflated hopes,poor delivery, no accountability and frequently changing goal posts, when it comes to podium finish at Olympics. We take pride in despatching biggest contingent but woefully accept empty handed return due tofailure ofpeople entrusted with the responsibility to ensure wins. We are equally apt at aiming low, compromises, shifting focus from winning gold to mere participation, junkets, selfies, lose utterance, unwanted exuberance, poor sporting acumen and host of related issues. All these reflect poor knowledge, unprofessional approach and necessity for quick fix revamp.Whole nation was in despair observing no Indian officialnext to the podium. The things to come were evidently clear from flip-flop, sloppy start and fire fight seen both at home and at Rio.
The murky off and on claim over participation of wrestler Sushil Kumar or Naar Singh and doping issue, conveyed the confusion till end. The resignation by the hockey coach in 2014 amongst controversies did tell that all was not well with the sport management. The embarrassing incidents of mismanagement on the opening day march past missed no one’s eyes. Missing country name on boxers jersey brought out in BBC interviewfurther exposed our preparation.Taking a Radiologist instead of a sport medicine expert was faux- pas or fixed one. The over stepping by our photo savvy Sports Minister showed the typical Indian politician’s feudal style. Arrival of a regional sports minister to the RIO to encourage his state athletes further reduced “Olympics games to private games”. Marathon runner Jaisha’s story proved total impunity and irresponsibility. Expecting participants to win immediately after long economy class travel showed disconnect. Men’s 4x400m relay team though pardonable,getting disqualified for wrongful change of baton. Feeding just three boxers in Rio against seven in London Olympics due to the absence of a national federation, unlocked all secrets.A Chinese official seeing chaotic Indian camp commented saying “There is more competition among the Indian officials than the sportspersons participating in the Games”.
Medal tally depicts country’s sporting prowess but looked our sporting organizations and organizers reduced it to a social event. Unavoidably, such events need to be seen by scientists, researchers and sport experts to pick the finer tips of sport process, infrastructural needs and mega event management. Ronojoy Sen, a  Singapore based researcher, in his new book ‘Nation at Play’ questions miserable show byIndia. Others argue that population is irrelevant since it is the effective participation which counts and produces Olympians. Experts go on to contend that there are certain factors like health, education, air quality, physical connectedness and nutrition that limit effective participation.
Looks ineptitude of India’s administrators running sports bodies as personal fiefdoms or part time jobs. Approach characterised by corruption and nepotism,faulting on travel plan, kitting, focussing more on brand ambassador, clueless on Olympics process  and poor facilities for athletes,did it all.Nothing could be moreill-timed and damaging for athletes than IOA President stating at RIO that Indian prefer dentist or accountant, than a player.Other nations enjoy the luxury of medals and may be, India does not have that ego likeUSA, Australia, Germany, Russian or China, spending billions for some medals.
Indian and   perhaps the world noticed with awe the trio of President IOA and Head and his Deputy heading AFI,are around 80 years of age. Imagine their outlived thought process and demanding nature of decision making, research and understanding fast paced games today. In fact, all sporting organizations in India are under the politician, their cronies and influential class. Those vintage managers, having never touched a ball, racket or entered a sport arena in their life, are tasked with winning medals at world stage. Seemingly they needed more health care and personal physicians for themselves than the sportsmen. Hype does not get you medals but the process does. With the ever shrinking time clocking by world athletes, Indian athletes stand no chance. We need governance of sports by young and experienced sports legends and surely not influential and politicians in their twilight.
India continues to preach and practice out dated methods for training while other nations are using scientific tools  at spotting talent swimmers, runners, rowers, cyclists and rugby players of the future. They are investing on identifying genetic markers in young sports enthusiasts to steer talent for its success in next 20 years and medical technology to modify genetic codes in unborn babies to produce a gymnast or any specific sportsman. Here misplaced focus on cricket and outlived operators, are perhaps giving a bye to evaluating scientific options.
World runs sports with caring attitude. Australian players are financially protected, China takes care of them, USA finds enough sponsors for them, Russia does every possible thing,bad or good for medals,Chinese consider winning medals at Olympics as a way of their expression, Germany believes in glorifying their wins, UK aims to double up and Russia keeps their budget figure close to the chest.Emulating just Russian, one finds their teams along with 113 coaches were moved to the countries neighbouring Brazil and Germany for acclimatization and feel factor in advance. Their long term vision tells them to finish all purchase for next Olympics immediately on conclusion of current games. Uncommonly, all their related federations, doctors, trainers, dieticians, scientists and anti-doping services act together to administer certain drugs to evade consequences.One can imagine their involvement and preparation from their ‘Home Fans concept’ at Rio created in a three story building for Russian delegation.They don’t mess with results and challenge anything afflicting performance.
Are we Indians up for better show in future? Hopefully yes. Gym culture is coming across India, though with abysmally low standard. Jogging by elites mixed with medical needs have started. We have enriched ourselves in IT and science and we must exploit these alongwith health experts, explorers and psychologists, sport legends and challenges. We must aimfor gold, surely not for participation or bronze as was seen with flickering performance.
Training in India must not be driven by crisis, frittering timelines or for debriefing. It must be an inescapable necessity emerging from a vision spanning over next 20-30 years. Instead of flip flopping on selection, retention or unceremoniously exiting a foreign coach at wrong time, we must develop a Medal Hunting Sports Institution (MHSI) unlike rusted NIS with all required facilities assisted by proven experts and in house sport legends.
75 percent of total money irrespective of the sources must go into few targeted medals sports playable at all ages. We need to identify quality with eye on gold medals. Talent hunt for athletes must commence atthe age of ten years or so. Mind trainers, simulators, near actual event stage feel, crowd effects, isolation, distracting elements, imagery and visuals, expected temperature and noise, extra mile and hostile environment should be essential ingredients of training. Talent hot-housing must be pursued to discover potential medal winning jewels like Usain Bolt and Phelps. When Sindhu and Sakshi could do, other too can. There are only winners or losers; no place for mediocrity. Coaching and technical staff must identify individual strengths, traits and capacity to auto adjustment for enhancing, optimizing and consistency of performance. Player must never get a feeling of insecurity, health worries, funds and training opportunities. Daily regimen for each athlete must be in line with his or her predefined measurable and specific goals and not mere attendance. There are numerous games which offer ample legitimate freedom for competition between sportsmen and sportsmen to better timings of later.
One sees a windfall of cash and sport awardsfor winners in India but nothing for losers, losing by Nano-seconds. I wish even 25 percent of these post win rewards are given to potential candidates towards their better preparation.India needs to cut its compromising hopes and shed never ever playing fat politicians, connected and influential people at the helm of affairs in sports by end 2016, lest it will be more shameful affair in Tokyo in 2020. We need to do something extra to win medals to uplift ourselves from 67th position to somewhere amongst top twenty unlike USA with 121 medals. Government must consider granting extra tax rebate to all donations towards this noble march and create a Sport Support Fund (SSF). Post retirement life time guaranteed care, will open a new window of unexplored athletes. Existence of multiple discipline courts and courses at single location with dedicated window of quality sport goods at reduced price, will give an early morning wakeup call to emerging youngsters. An option of outsourcing an odd sport to a corporate house may not be ruled out. A men vs women sport competition for selective disciplines will create added zeal.
PM’s decision to set up a Task Force for preparing a plan for up to 2028 is a good step. A similar task force set up earlier consisting of Rahul Dravid, Dhanraj  Pillai, Gopi Chand and few other sports legends,was chaired by a politician,Anurag Thakur.SC intervention in BCCI affair is a smart step in the right direction and support for sports lovers and transparency


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