Satish Kumar, a Class 10 government school student, had always dreamt of becoming a cricket star like Sachin Tendulkar... that is until he watched the recently-released Bollywood movie, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag on the life of legendary Indian sprinter Milkha Singh. Inspired by the champion, Kumar went to Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium just the next day after seeing the movie and applied for training in track events, including 100m, 200m, 400m, 5000m etc running races.
“Ever since my childhood I have wanted to get into sports and do something for the country. It has been cricket till now, but I think the movie has shown me the right way. Now I want to be like Milkha Singh,” says Kumar.
Kumar is not alone. Coaches of various sports centres say hundreds of young people who have seen the movie are queuing up, applying for various athletics training programmes and hoping they’ll be able to replicate Milka Singh’s Rome Olympics feat - when he missed winning a medal just by a whisker.
Says Jaipal Singh, a senior coach at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, “Nowadays every student coming here for admission says, ‘Sir, mujhe Bhaag Milkha Bahag jaisa bana do. Main bhi unki tarah daudna chahta hoon (Sir, I want to become another Milkha Singh, I want to run like him, help me’).”
Singh says this has been the second time in his experience when so many young people, especially students from various schools and colleges, are turning up for sports training. “When the Commonwealth Games were over in 2010, I witnessed for the first time a large number of teenagers wanting to register for various games. Unfortunately, the euphoria faded after some time. Now I see another jump - but this time it’s for athletics and that too just for track events. I think the credit goes to Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” says Singh.
There are around 600 students registered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for both track and field training. These include 100m 200m, 400m, 5000m, 10,000m races, long jump, high jump, triple jump, followed by javelin throw, shot put and hammer throw. Out of these 600, around 180 to 200 trainees turn up regularly for daily practice.
“The number of registrations as well as daily attendance have both gone up by 10% in the last two weeks,” says Singh.
Kulbir Singh, another senior coach at Chhatrasal Stadium, Model Town, says the number of registrations for athletics training has gone up by 20% to 30% at their centre. “More students from private and convent schools are coming forward for athletics and all of them say the same thing ... they want to run like Milkha Singh.”
A smilar trend was reported from Thyagaraj Sports Complex, another popular athletics training centre in south Delhi. “I think the younger generation was not aware of Milkha’s contribution to athletics. His indomitable courage to fight all odds in life and his historic run at the Rome Olympics has been portrayed very well in the film. In fact, my students literally took me to the cinema hall to watch the movie. I told them I knew all about him but they insisted I see the movie as they found it very inspiring,’’ says SS Rai, senior coach, Thyagaraj Sports Complex.
“There has been a 30% rise in the number of students with us. This could go up as the euphoria builds up further. I don’t know how long this will last and how many of our trainees will do something for the game. One thing, however, is sure. This is the right time to promote sporting activities,” adds Rai.
Get trained here
DDA’s athletics promotion scheme
Address: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and CWG Village Sports Complex
Chief coach: Dinesh Rawat
Fee: Rs. 3600 monthly scholarship given to selected candidates
Timings: 5pm to 8pm
Entry age: 12 yrs
DDA picks talented athletes from various school and district level
competitions and award them a monthly scholarship of Rs. 3600
Jogi Throwing Club
Address: DDA Park, Sector 8, Dwarka
Chief coach: Jogesh Kumar
Fee: Free of cost
Timings: 6am to 8am and 4.30pm to 7.00pm
Entry Age: 13 years
Contact person: Jogesh Kumar 9717484850
For training in discus throw, javelin throw, shot put and hammer throw. Centre started by late Maj Joginder Singh an Asian Games gold medalist
Thyagaraj Sports Complex
Address: INA Colony, south Delhi,
Chief coach: S S Rai
Fee: Free of cost
Timings: 5pm to 7.30pm
Entry age: 12 years
Contact person: S S Rai - 9968302398
The Delhi government and its education department runs various sports training schemes here
Athletics training by SAI
Address: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Lodhi Road
Chief coach: Jaipal Singh
Fee: Rs. 50 and Rs. 75 a month
Timings: 3pm to 7pm
Entry age: 10 years
Contact number: 01124369781
Started in the 1980s, this is the biggest training centre of the Sports Authority of India
Address: Model Town, north Delhi
Chief coach: Sunita Rai
Fee: Free of cost
Timings: 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm (summer) and 2pm to 5pm (winter)
Entry age: 10 yrs
Contact number: Kulbir Singh 9213227757
This is another training centre run by the Delhi govt’s education department