The State of Jammu and Kashmir which is striving hard to carve a space on the country’s sports map, can boast of having some outstanding sportspersons in various disciplines of sports, who make it to blossom at the National and International scene. Gymnastics is among a few prominent medal winning sports disciplines, the State is proud of. Ace Gymnasts of the State namely Palak Kour, Mitali Dogra, Nandani Lakhotra and Vandhana Barthi recently returned with flying colours from the Senior National Gymnastics Championship held at Mohali. Palak bagged 3 gold and one bronze; Mitali clinched one gold and one bronze; Vandhana claimed one bronze and Nandani won team gold. These National champions were accompanied by Arjuna Awardee Krupali Patel Singh and SP Singh as coaches.
In an interview with EXCELSIOR, these Gymnasts and their coach talked about their achievements, facilities being provided to them by the Government and J&K’s sports scenario in general.
Excelsior: You emerged as All India champions in Senior Nationals held at Mohali. Tell us about your feelings and preparations?
Palak: Becoming National champions is not everybody’s cup of tea and is always an amazing feeling. We feel ecstatic and blissful, simply on the top of the world. To be on top in a mega event like Senior Nationals makes you feel proud. Now, talking about preparations, you know, we work day in and day out under the guidance and supervision of Mam (Krupali) and Sir (SP Singh). We do 8 hours training in Gymnastics Hall at MA Stadium every day.
Excelsior: You have, many a time, kept your State’s flag high at the National and International level. Please comment on your achievements?
Mitali: Winning gold and bronze in Senior Nationals is one of the highlights of my career. I, along with Palak and other young Gymnasts have been part of many International events, not to talk of National events only and have won galaxy of medals in the National events held across the country.
Excelsior: Please throw some light on the facilities and infrastructure being provided to you by the Government?
Palak: The Government has provided us a Hall at Indoor Complex, MA Stadium for practicing. However, the Hall is not exclusively for Gymnastics, rather a multi disciplinary facility, which makes the things congested at times. The Hall is not sufficient for preparing for the bigger events. To make yourself ready for International events, you need a scientifically equipped arena, with fitness centres, sona bath and allied facilities, which make it fatigue resistant. So, there is a lot of scope for improvement in infrastructural facilities.
Excelsior: Are the facilities and infrastructure sufficient in the State?
Vandhana: For beginners the facilities are sufficient for practicing purposes, but for preparing for the International and other higher level events, you need more infrastructural facilities to blossom and bring laurels for the State.
Excelsior: How can be the standard of sports improved in J&K?
Krupali: You know, in J&K Sports is still a secondary thing. People have yet to understand the real meaning of professionalism. There is no dearth of talent in our State as we have some immensely talented players in some medal winning sports disciplines like in Gymnastics and other such disciplines. The quartet of Palak, Mitali, Vandhana and Nandani posses all that is required to blossom at the highest level, but the only thing is that they need quality facilities for practicing at home (domestic level). For their excellence at the international level they need quality infrastructure like scientifically equipped arena with all requisite facilities matching the international standards. Moreover, Government needs to give priority to sports, if at all, it is keen to produce international stuff. Translating gender equality into reality should be the ‘mantra’ for female athletes to sparkle at the higher levels.
Excelsior: What is your message to the budding sportspersons and the sports fraternity?
Nandani: To excel in sporting field you need to be devoted, dedicated and determined, rather you need to marry the particular sport you opt for. Youngsters should try to win hearts, because that will help them to get cooperation of their parents, friends, teachers and well wishers, which, in turn will make them to flourish. We would not have been able to make our state proud, had our parents not co-operated us in taking sports as a career.
Excelsior: What is the role of fitness in sports and games?
Krupali: Fitness and sports are two sides of the same coin, rather they are directly proportional to one another. Fitness is the basic ‘mantra’ to excel in sports.
Excelsior: To whom you attribute your success and who are your role models?
Gymnasts & Coach: We attribute our success to our coaches Krupali (Mam), SP Singh (Sir) and Manisha (Mam), who leave no stone unturned in moulding us and honing our skills. They are our role models also. “No-doubt, they attribute their success to me and other coaches, but they are the real heroes. It is their brilliance which makes us feel proud. Hats off to them! They have always been good listeners and the learners as well”.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the interview, coach SP Singh bated for raising sufficient infrastructure in the State to help the talented and promising gymnasts dazzle at the highest level.