Haryana grooms sporting talent for India’s future

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Monday, November 29, 2010

CHANDIGARH - As athletes from Haryana make the country proud with their achievements in international events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, the state government has swiftly moved to groom a new crop of sportspersons for the future.

From boxing star Vijender Singh to ace badminton player Saina Nehwal, who hails from Haryana and is now settled in Hyderabad, the success of these non-cricketing sports icons have put Haryana in the forefront of India’s sporting map.

Taking a cue from Bollywood blockbuster “Chak De! India” where women hockey players are asked not to identify themselves from their respective states but as the Indian national team, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government has launched an ambitious ‘Play for India’ programme to identify sporting talent from across the state.

“Even though the players will be selected and groomed in Haryana, they will be prepared in their respective sporting event to play for the country. I think we can win even more medals in future in major international sporting events, including Olympics, by giving right facilities and incentives to players,” Chief Minister Hooda told IANS.

“India’s athletes are capable of taking on the very best in the world,” he added.

Sportspersons from Haryana bagged 15 medals, including five golds, at the just concluded Guangzhou Asian Games.

Their performance in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) helped the country to get its best-ever haul. Athletes from Haryana clinched 37 of the 101 medals won by India. This included 21 of the 38 gold medals won by India.

Hooda said that the state government is keen to see that the potential athletes are nurtured properly.

“With this objective, Sports and Physical Aptitude Tests (SPAT) have been introduced in schools to identify potential athletes to help them excel in sports through scholarships and training. In its first phase, 46,000 children in the age groups 8-14 and 14-19 years, participated and out of them 1,606 have been selected for the sports scholarships,” Hooda said.

“The government has plans to host the SPAT at 100 centres in the state by next year (2011) and we hope to attract over 20 lakh (two million) boys and girls, making it one of the biggest sports promotion programmes anywhere in the world. Under the campaign ‘Play for India’, the government wants to encourage youth to take up at least one game. For us, sports is a low-cost efficient tool of engaging young people constructively,” Hooda said.

The Haryana government has also invited the private sector to get involved in the programme.

“The industry can participate by building, maintaining and operating stadiums and training facilities. They can devise their own athlete support programmes and reach out to high-potential athletes directly,” Hooda said.

Several players from Haryana have made it big in events like boxing, wrestling, discus throw, athletics, shooting, badminton and kabaddi, to name a few.

The success of these players in the CWG and Asian Games has brought them the moolah as well.

Haryana players winning gold, silver and bronze medals in the Asian Games would be honoured with cash awards of Rs 2.5 million (Rs.25 lakh), Rs.1.5 million (Rs.15 lakh) and Rs.1 million (10 lakh) respectively.

CWG medal winners were given a cash reward of Rs 1.5 million (Rs.15 lakh), Rs.1 million (Rs.10 lakh) and Rs. 700,000 for gold, silver and bronze medals respectively. They also got cars (their cost ranging from Rs. 350,000 to Rs 800,000), mobile phones and up to 101 kg of desi ghee.

“The incentives will definitely help youngsters to take up sports as a career. A lot of boys and girls, who cannot afford training, will now be attracted to take up sports,” boxer Akhil Kumar, who won a gold at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and was a quarterfinalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, told IANS.

Haryana has over 350 sports stadiums in villages, blocks and towns. Bhiwani district has emerged as a prominent boxing nursery, producing boxers of international fame like Vijender, who won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics and a gold in the just concluded Asian Games, Akhil and Dinesh Kumar.

The small town of Shahbad, 60 km from here, has produced nearly 40 international women hockey players in a short span of 10 years.

The government also has plans to set up a wrestling academy at Rohtak and Kabaddi academy at Jind.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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