Between shooting hoops and shooting targets, students from the state ensured that Maharashtra sealed the number one position in school-level sports competitions once again this year.
Maharashtra students won 567 medals in total when the figures were tallied at this year’s School Games Federation of India’s (SGFI) annual meeting last month. Delhi was second with 335 medals.
For five out of the past six years, the state’s students have emerged as table toppers (see box) at SGFI events. SGFI organises competitions in multiple disciplines for both boys and girls in the under-14, under-17 and under-19 categories. The haul includes winners in all three categories for both boys and girls.
Of this, the state has performed best in gymnastics, archery, swimming and shooting. This year, gymnastics accounted for 81 out of the 567 medals and 64 out of the 369 medals last year. In archery, students bagged 60 medals this year. In swimming, the state got around 90 medals this year, with 18 coming from shooting.
“For these sports in particular there are very good arrangements in the state,” said Narendra Sopal, director, sports and youth welfare department.
The state’s continued success at the national level has arisen out of a combination of factors. The government has a 5% reservation for state-level athletes and school-level certificates are allowed as criteria for recruitment.
Last year, to further boost school-level participation the state, more than doubled the prize money for winners and participants in national level competitions.
The sports marks scheme, which is now under revision, has also played a role, said officials, helping swell participation thanks to the incentive of 25 extra marks in Class 10 and 12. A newly proposed marks scheme is now part of the state’s draft sports policy that is awaiting cabinet approval.
The state’s success at the school level has not however, translated into success at the higher levels.
“If you look at Maharashtra’s performance beyond school-level, we are somewhere at the fourth position,” said Padmakar Valvi, the state minister for sports and youth affairs. “After school students go to college, they get into other things and lose interest.”