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Harvesting talent in Punjab's paddy fields

sports Updated: Dec 28, 2010 22:31 IST
Ashutosh Sharma

Five years back, Jassowal village woke up from its slumber to usher in a world-class tennis academy, courtesy its NRI son Harvey Saran.

A brainchild of this millionaire Canadian real estate honcho, the Harvest Tennis Academy is nestled in the lush green paddy fields some 30km from Ludhiana.

The story behind the academy is that Saran took to heart the jibes of some Canadian friends who made fun of India getting just one medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. So, he started building this academy in his native village.

"His idea was to give kids from this village a chance to become world champions," says Hardeepak Singh, director, Harvest Campus.

The academy began on three acres of land and 24 kids gathered from nearby villages for this unique experiment.

Every facility, including kits, is free for players of the village, while others are charged a nominal sum. Nearly 60 trainees have access to facilities that rival the best in the world.

A purely philanthropic effort, the academy has, over the years, added 14 floodlit courts, a stadium and a health spa. Besides the eight coaches, including foreigners, the academy has physiotherapists, fitness trainers, a dietician and a doctor.

"Last year, our girl, Gundeep Kaur, won silver in the U-19 nationals," Gaurav Bhardwaj, the tennis manger, adds.