Morena’s long jumper Ankit Sharma broke a 26-year-old international record to win gold medal at the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati earlier this month, but failed to win appreciation from the Madhya Pradesh government.
On February 10, the sportsman surpassed Pakistan’s Mohammad Urfaq record jump of 7.79 metres with a leap of 7.89 metres. In 2015, he was declared the world number one long jumper in senior outdoor category by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) after his record leap of 8.04m in the Kerala National Games.
The state government, however, remained indifferent towards Sharma’s achievements.
“Madhya Pradesh sports department shower blessings only on MP State Sport Academy players. If an academy player wins any medal in an invitational tournament, the sports department puts hoardings all over the city. But it hardly did anything like this after Ankit’s excellent performance,” said Vinod Pandey, a former national-level sprinter.
Athletics Federation of India (AFI) joint secretary Mumtaz Khan also expressed disappointment that nobody from the state government made any attempt to reach out to Sharma or acknowledged his achievements so far.
“Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, sports minister and officers of the sports department should have at least congratulated him (Sharma) for the success. The feeble response of the (sports) department towards players, who are not a part of (the state sports) academy, is highly demotivating. Ankit’s achievement should not be ignored,” Khan said.
He added that only two days ago the sports department and sports minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia congratulated one of the medal-winners at South Asian Games because she was associated with the state sport academy.
Twenty five-year-old Sharma, who hails from the same village as the legendary athlete-turned-rebel Paan Singh Tomar, is hardly able to hide his hurt.
“My job is to perform only and I am happy with my performance. But yes, when people and government recognise the achievements, it always motivates an athlete.”
Sports and youth welfare department secretary Sachin Sinha, however, refuted the allegations that the state was promoting players of state academies only.
He said, “This is wrong. Government felicitates other players too during sports function. Government also provides prize money under certain rules and regulations, players can get it for excellence in sports.”