22 and counting!

A few months back, I had written about our haul at the Olympics.

Today, as the Commonwealth Games come to a close, we wrapped up this session with a record haul. We won in the usual suspects such as Weightlifting, Badminton and Boxing, with new categories added in steeplechase of all things – a discipline where the Kenyans have dominated since 98!

Growth in sports takes time. Especially, when it is not cricket. Try telling your parents that you want to pursue a career in steeplechase, and see the look on their faces! Such athletes have to fight all odds – even themselves, to practice and excel in sports that many people have not even heard of.

Many give up early. Some later. And then one person goes on to break the Kenyan dominance and nearly grab the gold, and suddenly, everyone sits up and take notice. This happened when Neeraj Chopra threw a spear farther than anyone else did, and made a mark in Indian Athletics History. Today, Avinash Sable repeated that feat, this time in steeplechase. These are pioneers, and have to be admired and written about.

There will come a time when India will dominate the world sports scene. It is bound to happen. All these years, sports were neglected and relegated to PT classes – today, mini centres of excellence are cropping up everywhere. Gopichand just didn’t excel at badminton. He created an academy that today churns out world-beaters, the latest being Pusarala Venkata Sindhu, who just won a gold in the sport.

It will happen. For now, let’s savor the feeling, and honor our champions. Jai Hind!


It’s the Olympics once again.

And it’s us once again, clamouring for more than just 1 or 2 medals, and cheering every match in the hope that we land that elusive gold or silver, or at least a bronze.

And once the Games end, the same comment on our lips – Why does a nation with nearly 18% of the world population end up with a few scraps? Yes, the occasional – ‘so-and-so’ nation with just 3 million people ended up with more medals than India.

So who is to blame? The Government (of course) – there are no facilities, no money in the sport, no incentives etc etc etc.

But are they really the only ones to blame?

A cursory look at the 120 athletes representing India this time around.

Punjab and Haryana lead the pack by far. Actually, if you look at this by sport, these two states make up most of the hockey teams and wrestlers as well. So why this disparity? What are the other states not doing right?

Frankly, the main reason behind Punjab and Haryana’s sporting prowess is tradition. Both states have had a rich tradition in sport, and it continues to this day. Badminton picked up in the South, and the North-East brought up heft in boxing and weightlifting. But this is still a very poor representation of a country of nearly 1.5 billion people. Statistically speaking, we should be far ahead of the pack by now.

I feel that a large part of the problem, is us. The society that places emphasis purely on academia, with sport being seen as an “extra-curricular”, one that will not help you “settle down”. The pressure to perform in academics leaves our kids with little room for anything else, leave alone exploring a career in sport.

Yes. there is little money in anything that is not cricket, but PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal cracked the code didn’t they? Whoever heard of shooting as a sport in India before Abhinav Bhindra made history? It took a pioneer, and a long while, but ceilings have been broken. Its up to us now to keep up that momentum.

And it starts with money. I read someplace that South Korea dominates in archery, because they made the corporate sector invest heavily in sport. One way of encouraging this in India would be for the Government to give a tax incentive for large corporates who invest in sporting facilities and training.

Let each state pick a sport that they have already excelled in, and then develop it to a point of dominance on the global stage.

Encourage athletes not just once in four years, but on an ongoing basis. Give them endorsements, interviews, life stories…there is a series on You Tube now that gives us a 10-12 minute look into the lives of these Olympians, and it is interesting. Build a sporting culture, with these as the starting icons of each sport.

Most importantly, change your own outlook. We cheer for India, and then sulk when we lose, and blame it on whoever, and move on. But how many of us have made our children sportsmen? We want to “secure”their future, and let someone else carry the burden.

I am a martial artist. Trained thousands of children and adults. I’ve seen children showing so much promise in classes, so much interest, and then one day, they stop coming. “He has his board exams, and so has to concentrate on studies” – was the oft-repeated excuse.

Well, I am a black belt with over 30 years of practice and I have not done too badly have I? Have faith in your kids, and they will not disappoint you.

Sport is essential for the overall development of a human being. It teaches so much – discipline, focus, resilience, positive attitude, teamwork, the sportsman spirit…a way of life that cannot be fathomed sitting behind a desk. Studies are essential yes, but then, so is sport. AND EQUALLY.

Until we know this, and implement this in our daily lives, the story will just keep repeating itself. Think about it.

So, right on the hells on my post last night, comes the delightful news of PV Sindhu becoming the first Indian Olympian to win two individual medals in consecutive Olympics.

First Mirabai, then Lovlina in boxing, and now Sindhu. There still also hope in the discuss throw, with Kamalpreet storming into the finals with an impressive performance.

The position of the Devi in the Indian pantheon has been paramount for thousands of years, and the women of this country still lead the tribe when it comes to winning honors.

And then there is the Indian hockey team, that came back from a drubbing in match 1 to reach the semi-finals.

Yes, our shooters disappointed, but it’s ok. Manu Bhaker still has a lot of years left in her.

The point is to compete and give it your best. And one day it will happen. When it does, it will open the floodgates for the sport in India, and then hopefully we have more investment of time, effort and money so as to produce world-beating athletes.

And so those who lost out this time, will come back, and then start practice again. What happened is done, when it comes to sport, there is no use thinking about it. One learns from the mistakes made, and tries to improve in the next game. A constant feedback loop of kinds.

Life too, is somewhat similar.

Take new beginnings for instance. Whether we transition from a job, or a relationship, there is always a bittersweet feeling that accompanies a new beginning.

When changing jobs, we don’t realize it until the last day, and then, it kicks in.

A change from the comfort zone, and a leap into the unknown.

Past laurels – employee of the month and year, get reset and you join the new workplace pretty much with a clean slate. A new set of bosses and peers to win over, a new set of clients to deal with…from software to people, a lot of variables.

Like in sport. You win a match, a tournament, but the next day, it is reset. You cannot rest on your past laurels to get ahead, a new beginning comes with a new outlook – training begins from zero and you have to fight to win once again.

And this is why sport is important. It teaches you to reset.

To try new things when you start again, to look forward to new ways of training and learning – it teaches you that you may be the greatest, but if you don’t work hard and train, you will still lose. And badly.

And it also helps you prepare mentally. To let go of the past, and to look forward to the future.

This is what we all struggle to do in life too yes?