On Saturday, the country’s premier sports institute, the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports, Patiala, will celebrate its golden jubilee. Once the palace of the Maharaja of Patiala, it now houses the country’s elite athletes.
The institute, which is the academic wing of the Sports Authority of India, is credited with churning out more than 16,000 coaches and countless number of sportspersons, including Olympic medallist Vijender Singh and Commonwealth Games gold-medallists Akhil Kumar, Krishna Poonia, Manjeet Kaur and Mandeep Kaur among others.
“For the last couples of years, the NIS has become my home and now I spend most of my time here,” says Beijing Olympic Games bronze-medallist boxer Vijender, who hails from Bhiwani. “I am thankful to the NIS for whatever I have achieved,” he adds.
The NIS was established on May 7, 1961, and is Asia’s largest sports institute. It is based on the Russian concept where all the sports facilities, including the playing arena, gymnasium and healthcare centre among other things are available inside the campus.
“I first came to NIS in 1998. Now, I spend a major part of the year here. It has played a major role in what I have accomplished till date,” says discus thrower Poonia, who broke the 52-year-long CWG athletics gold-drought last year.
“I have attended camps in various SAI centres across the country, but NIS is the best. Last year, it was decided to shift the national camp to Pune as some renovation work was going on inside the boxing hall. But the boxers refused to go. They were more than happy training under the tin-roof hall here,” says Arjuna awardee boxer, Akhil Kumar.
Of the three Beijing Olympic Games medallists, two — Vijender and Sushil Kumar — received training at the NIS before the quadrennial event. India had bagged a record number of 101 medals in the Delhi Commonwealth Games out of which one-third were bagged by NIS trainees.
“With the help of (Indian and foreign) experts, we have revised the academic plan and want the institute to be a national pride. Hopefully, it will happen soon,” says Ranawat, the NIS executive director.