It is time to wake up and develop resources

Saba Nayakan Kolkata | Updated on November 16, 2017

Four of India’s most promising swimmers were in for a rude shock when they learnt that their participation at the London Olympics was uncertain. The four, Virdhaval Khade, Sandeep Sejwal, Aaron D’Souza and Saurabh Sangvekar, did not find their names in the initial list published by the world swimming federation — FINA — on its Web site.

They four are outstanding swimmers by Indian standards but their Olympic ‘B’ qualifying standard, better known as Olympic Selection Time (OST), the minimum requirement for competition at the Games, failed to get their FINA invitation so far. Khade (100-m freestyle, 50.34 seconds); Sejwal (100-m breaststroke (1:02.23; 200 breaststroke, 2:16.16); D’Souza (200 freestyle, 1:50.89); and Sangvekar (1,500, 15:34.67) are in danger of not being considered among the 900 swimmers who to participate in London.

Years of dedicated hard work, time and energy spent on achieving the ‘B’ standard mark are going to come to naught unless some miracle gets them aboard the flight to London. Similarly, there are 14 Indian athletes who have made it to the Games, eight of them under the ‘B’ standard so far. Even these 14 have shed blood and sweat to earn their place at the Olympics, a dream destination for any sportsperson in his or her life.

There is another category called ‘A’ standard. These competitors qualify through higher performance compared to ‘B’ norm and are expected to compete for medals. Significantly, six of the 14 athletes have attained ‘A’ standard in which India have three in the 20-km walk event alone! Both athletics and swimming are high voltage events in an Olympic Games and the participation of Indians in these disciplines are bound to give them the experience of a life time. This apart, the tag, ‘Olympian’ on their return is perhaps the biggest prize they get.

China, like India, was dominating the Asian competition but could not make much of an impact at the world level. Since late 70s, China set a system that began to produce world beaters. Today, that country produces world and Olympic champions. When a country with the largest population in the world could achieve so much in less than five decades, India is still languishing at a level which is not good enough to produce Olympic champions.

Lacks accountability

Knowledgeable people who follow these disciplines feel that the system India has been following is not only amateurish but lacks accountability. Be it the officials of the National bodies controlling these two disciplines or the coaches whose job was to train and produce high calibre, athletes are not doing their job properly. But these people continue to enjoy the position for years. Like China, Indian sport is largely depends on Government funding. Why then is there no accountability? Why there is no one to question the way our sportspersons are prepared? It is not the question of why a billion-strong country could produce only one Olympic individual gold medallist in Abhinav Bindra (shooting). It is the lack of pride that is hurting Indian sport.

It is time to wake up and identify the right disciplines where the Indians are good at and focus on developing the resources. We need to learn to compete and not just participate in international events.

Published on July 01, 2012

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