Indians & Skill-based sports
As I had mentioned earlier, India are genetically
unsuited less suited for purely athleticism based sports like sprinting, long distance running, swimming, diving, gymnastics etc. It is highly unlikely India will produce a sub-10 second 100m runner in 10-15 years from today. Having said that India have had no problems in acquiring proficiency in skill based sports. Despite general apathy, lack of proper infrastructure & most of the players not even seeing an astroturf field until their late teens, India still produces highly skilled hockey players at international level.
I am unable to find the reference but a long time ago I remember reading that Netherlands has about 300 astroturf hockey stadia. It is highly likely that there are similar number of turfs available in other powerful hockey nations like Germany & Australia. India, the most successful nation ever, has just 30 astroturf stadia. Even a simple doubling1 of this number & giving U-16, U-12 teams access to these facilities will see instant uptick in results thanks to the greater repetitions from an earlier age.
Even in racket based sports like tennis & badminton, India produced top class players like Ramanathan Krishnan (who won the Wimbledon boys’ singles title just 7 years after India’s independence), Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Prakash Padukone, Syed Modi, Pullela Gopichand all of whom were top players in their disciplines. Almost all of their formative years were in the debilitating uber-socialist era of Indian bureaucracy. Just imagine what sort of player Prakash Padukone would have been had he been given the access to facilities availed by Peter Gade or Lin Dan.
Don’t Put all your eggs in one basket(s)
India has decent talent pool in a few sports and we must identify how our traditional sports can be used to translate those talents into their nearest equivalent of Olympic sports. There is enough evidence to suggest that oriental martial arts (kung fu, karate, judo etc) had their origins in India. Traditional Indian martial arts like kalaripayattu, silambam & archery still exist in various forms. We must do a study as to how these traditional skills that are second nature to the practitioners can be translated in Olympic sports like fencing and judo. The talent pool from these arts must be groomed to win in the Olympics. It is even possible to tap gymnasts from these village grounds given the amount of acrobatics that is required for a skilled fighter.
We have had centres of wrestling colloquially called kusthi, akhara, mallayudha depending upon region for centuries. Remember that India’s first individual medal came in wrestling as early as 1952. Wrestling, along with shooting, is India’s second most successful discipline after hockey. Funding for wrestling must be increased multi-fold to create a much bigger pool of wrestlers to compete at the Olympics & world championships. Again our traditional style of wrestling must be codified and combined with modern diet & fitness techniques to get the best of both worlds. Tradition, more often than not, exists for a reason because it works!
Shooting is another sport India must focus upon. The Indian army is one of the best trained armies in the world and we have a wealthy pool of talent to chose from to train. Most army folk stay for shorter than 5 years and it is important to identify the men who had the best shooting records and the training provided to these men can lead to a high degree of sophistication in Olympic competitions. Being in the army we can expect them to be less prone to the shooting yips many competitors feel in the Olympics.
If India, through means private & public, concentrate on these sports i.e. archery(4), fencing(10), judo(14), wrestling(18) & shooting(15), we will compete for 53 gold medals and 159 total medals. With a thorough road map and exact targets at each step starting now, even if India win 10% of the medals we will end up with 16 medals in an Olympics. We should also invite experts from countries that dominate medals in said sports i.e. Japanese Judo experts or South Korean archery experts to train our fledgling aspiring Olympians.
Most Important factor of them all: Money
Now comes the most important resource of them all: money. As I mentioned in the previous post, money is the most important factor. We must spare no expense for the training & dietary regimes for these athletes. Medical support is just as important. These athletes, especially the wrestlers & racket sportspeople, push themselves beyond the edge of what is humanly possible. It is inevitable that the occasional bend becomes a break. Proper surgery and rehab is not cheap. It is a very expensive affair but it is also most necessary. Just throwing money will not work. Money must be spent wisely and correctly.
The value of a medal or a trophy is priceless. The Olympic prize money is a pittance compared to amount of time and effort that an Olympian puts in. There was news a few days back that Brazil had spent $14 billion for the world cup they hosted 2 years ago. Had they won their 6th world cup in Maracana the said $14 billion would have been worth less than a torn rag when compared to the priceless trophy that Thiago Silva would have lifted in front of their home crowd. Similarly, if Brazil manage a top 10 finish in this Rio Olympics, the $11 billion would be chump change. What I am trying to say is that there is no way you could make the money spent for this training back. We will have to bleed money.
Lastly, we must draw inspiration from whatever semi-success we had in the past and aim to better it. Dipa Karmakar is an inspiration to all gymnastic aspirants in India. She overcame injury, lack of facilities and official apathy to just qualify for the vault final. She was not even allowed to take a personal physio, a bare necessity that is taken for granted by the top nations, with her before the final jump. She overcame impossible odds to miss out on a bronze medal by a hair’s breadth. If she had even half the resources available to Simone Biles how well would she have done?
1Astroturf is an expensive surface. Not only laying it is expensive but maintaining the surface after repeated wear & tear from playing on it. It is a bitter pill but which all curing pill is sweet?