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India should beware of false sense of supremacy

india Updated: Sep 04, 2006 23:02 IST

Sports administrators and athletes in India should not get swayed by the country's record medal haul at the South Asian Games in Colombo and must remember that their showing was largely against a weak opposition.

If India extended its domination at the eight-nation extravaganza by winning 118 gold, 69 silver and 47 bronze medals for a tally of 234, it was because there was hardly any competition between its athletes and the rest.

Still, some of the Indian sportspersons were tested fully. Sri Lanka gave India the biggest scare as is shown by the hosts' 63 silver medals, indicating they finished second on that many occasions.

Sri Lanka also won 37 gold and 78 bronze medals for a 178-haul though they still finished third behind Pakistan, which won 43 gold, 44 silver and 71 bronze for a total of 158.

The Maldives, the Indian Ocean atoll nation, was the only country not to win a single medal for the second successive games. Bhutan failed to win a gold but got three silver and 10 bronze medals.

Chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent, Rangil Singh, is beaming. "I am happy that India did well in so many disciplines," Rangil Singh told IANS.

But he touched upon the old debate whether or not India should send its best athletes to these regional games or give exposure to the upcoming, talented ones to perform against better opposition.

"See, what happened in hockey and football. Our standard is so low," he said, referring to the two sports where India did not win top honours.

Pakistan defeated India's second-string hockey team 3-2 in the final while Nepal beat India's under-20 national team 2-0 in the bronze medal match to deprive them of any medal.

"When records will be written or when a lay man will discuss these performances there will be no mention of a second string or the third string, but it will be said the country has won or lost," he reasoned.

This again gives a peep into Indian sports administrators' obsession with medals at international meets though Rangil Singh said he was not in favour of sending the best athletes to the biennial games.

"I am not saying that India should send its best to these games but it should not be third string either. We should field our second best," he said.

But the fact is many coaches want the top athletes to contest these games so that they win loads of medals. After all, the coaches have to justify their presence and show results to the powers that be.

Still, someone will do well to tell the established Indian athletes that they should look back at their South Asian Games medals with a bit of pragmatism and do not get swayed by the easy wins.

They need to work harder for bigger competitions like the Asian Games and world championships rather than harp on victories at the South Asian Games.

Whatever the final outcome of this debate, there were a few bright sparks in Colombo for India.

Ace swimmer Lekha Kamath and middle distance runner Pinky Paramanik were among the upcoming sportspersons who cornered glory, besides long jumper Anju Bobby George who staged a successful comeback from an ankle injury after three months to win the gold.

Maharashtra's Lekha, just 15, won six gold medals.

Pinky, who has shown her mettle in recent years, won the 400 metres and 800m and successfully anchored the 4x400m women's relay with consummate ease.

It was the Kolkata girl's consistent performance that earned her a spot on the Asian team for the prestigious World Cup in Athens next month.

"I am happy with my performance. I am now looking forward to the World Cup," Pinki told IANS.

India fielded 417 athletes and officials in 18 of the 20 sports at the 11-day games. It did not take part in weightlifting and wrestling because of disputes in the national federations.

India's medal haul was largely made possible by its swimmers, shooters and track-and-field exponents.

The swimmers won 32 gold, 18 silver and three bronze medals while shooters - almost all of them upcoming ones - bagged 19 gold, 11 silver and five bronze medals. And athletes got 15 gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze medals.

At the same time, the games also exposed India's shortcoming in some sports. India failed to win a single gold in cycling, football and hockey.

The sports administrators would do well to take lessons from the games and try to find methods to improve performances in these disciplines. The December Asian Games in Doha are only months away.

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