For 11-year-old Prince Pahal, fencing was a sport seen only in books, till the Haryana State Fencing Association (HSFA) went out looking for young students to put together a state team of 15. Prince is now training for the national games with his team mates in the corridor of a sports complex, due to lack of facilities.
"We just need a medal for the game to become a craze. No one asked about shooting earlier, but after one medal infrastructure improved and people started taking up the sport," says VK Beniwal, vice president, HSFA. But is it necessary to wait till someone brings in a medal?
The ongoing London Olympics are hosting around 36 disciplines. However, India has failed to qualify for many of these. "People are unaware of many disciplines," says Major Rohit Dagar, secretary of the Army Polo and Riding Club. "The game was dominated by the forces earlier, but now more civilians are taking it up," says Dagar. Apart from government facilities, some new centres have also opened up around the city, such as the Excellentia Equitation Centre in Vasant Kunj, where equestrian enthusiasts can refine their skills in dressage, show jumping and eventing disciplines.
Those interested in honing their water polo skills, can head to the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Pool Complex, which was spruced up for the 2010 CWG. The Sports Authority of India introduced the 'Come and Play' scheme to encourage the general public to come and take advantage of such facilities.
A visible uplift has improved the gymnastics centre at the Indira Gandhi Indoor (IGI) stadium. From beam balances and uneven bars to trampoline and floor carpets, it has equipment at par with the international standards. Even though many private centres and schools offer classes in gymnastics, so far none of them provide professional-level training in rhythmic and trampoline gymnastics as the facility at the IGI stadium does.
The gymnastics centre also attracts young children in large numbers. Coaches however woe the high drop-out rate. Shyam Lal Tantuvai, former coach of the Indian gymnastics team, says, "Indian parents don't see a future in sports, so by the time a kid reaches high school, he/she is forced to quit."
Though the government's recent efforts to provide facilities are praise-worthy, Tantuvai laments our poor sporting culture. Citing the example of China, he says, "Problems at the senior level need to be addressed and that is possible only if the government takes a sportsperson's responsibility, adopts and trains them."
Rhythmic and trampoline gymnastics