India's upcoming middle-distance runner Beant Singh comes from a humble village background, where the only thing he knows about nutrition is drinking tall glasses of milk fortified with grated dry fruits or adding oodles of butter to his paranthas.
Terms like dietary charts, calorific value and nutritional supplements seem unfamiliar to him. Beant continues to follow his routine as he puts his heart and soul into training at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the World School Games beginning in Beijing on July 27.
Not just Beant, other young athletes coming from villages and mofussil towns, dreaming of making a name for themselves, too have no access to modern technology and are left none the-wiser when they arrive at the 'most advanced' sports medicine centre in the country located in the Nehru Stadium in Delhi.
Only basic support
Though the centre has state-ofthe-art physiotherapy equipment, at best it looks like a first-aid centre with hardly any qualified people to provide guidance in sports medicine, dietary supplements and training regimen - things which have today become a necessity for youngsters aspiring to compete at the international level.
Krishna Roy, 60, is one of the 'experts' posted at the centre inaugurated last year. She earns Rs 800 per day for his seven-hour shift. Suchitra De and Malkiat Singh are the other two 'medical experts' who have been working with Sports Authority of India (SAI) for over two decades. Their job is to work in the other SAI-administered stadia in Delhi.
As for expertise, neither of them has specialised in any field of sports medicine. At best, they treat sportspersons for minor injuries and ailments. In acute cases, says one of the experts on condition of anonymity, the case is referred to a specialist. "We only give first aid."
It's not without reason that athletes and coaches rue the lack of scientific backup they get when they move from small towns to so-called specialised centres, where they feel they would be trained in the most modern methods.
No proper plan
Beant's coach Dinesh Rawat says, "Since there is no proper guidance available on nutrition and physiology, we usually apply the trial-and-error method. I haven't heard of any sports science staff posted at the stadium."
The coach recently introduced Beant to food supplements as he feels they would help him recover faster. But he himself is unaware of the quality of the product or the quantity which needs to be given to his ward. Rawat only knows one thing: That supplements assist in quick recovery. "Since training had become more strenuous, supplements will help (Beant) recover," he says.
SAI scientific officer, Meenu Dhingra, who oversees the sports medicine centre, says there is a lot of modern equipment to support sportspersons, but doesn't elaborate. "I am not the right person to talk on specific issues," she says.
No movement forward
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is one of the busiest 'terminals' for teams going abroad for meets but there is just one physiotherapist to cater to the huge number of athletes.
Four years ago, former sports minister Ajay Maken had announced that an institute of sports and science costing Rs 200 crore would come at the Nehru Stadium soon. The aim was to provide scientific backup, including biomedical assistance, to athletes. The project never took off.
In 2013, former SAI director- general Jiji Thomson and two consultants visited London, Birmingham, Leeds and Leicestershire to learn about sports medicine and establish a similar centre back home.
Recently, SAI in its governing body meeting got the approval to revamp the sports medicine centres. But there has been no progress since. Former SAI sports medicine expert, PSM Chandran, had suggested a wide range of equipment and specialists to back the country's top athletes who flock the stadium.
"Sweating on the playground only helps athletes reach a certain level, but scientific backup gives them the edge," Chandran had said.Those words hold no meaning for an institution which is caught in a time warp.