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Showtime, but of another kind

Athletes burst into limelight after CWG and Asian Games success.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2010 23:20 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times

Sprinter Ashwini Nachappa was India's original glamour girl in the eighties, making winning truly fashionable. Yet it has been mostly cricketers and a select group from other elite sports who had found glamour and fame on television. However, Indian athletes producing strong showing in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games promises to shine the spotlight on more athletes from Olympic disciplines.

Krishna Poonia was barely known outside a small group until she led a sweep of the women's discus medals at the Commonwealth Games; a catwalk decked in bridal finery was among the recognition that came her way.

2010 Commonwealth Games boxing gold medallist Manoj Kumar is doing a reality show that will be telecast in NDTV Imagine next year. He is currently in Argentina shooting for the show. Former women's international wrestler Sonika Kaliraman is also part of the reality show.

After the CWG, Manoj Kumar along with CWG women's badminton doubles champions Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa featured in Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Beijing Olympics quarterfinalist and world cup boxing bronze medallist Akhil Kumar will be seen in action from next week in the dancing show Jhalak Dhikla Ja. Despite his twinkling feet, he will have a tough act to follow. Soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia danced to victory with his female partner in the 2009 edition.

Akhil acknowledged the challenge. "I'm not a good dancer. I'm trying my level best and my partner Neha is a professional choreographer and she is helping me out," said the Haryana Police DySP. "The presence in Jhalak Dhikla Ja will surely popularize boxing even more in the country. It's a different type of experience and I am enjoying it."

Olympic bronze medallist and Asian Games boxing champion Vijender is articulate and handsome, which has already fetched him a number invites to the catwalk.

Earlier this year, skater Anup Kumar Yama from Andhra Pradesh taught Deepika Padukone and Neil Nitin Mukesh the basics of roller-skating for the Bollywood movie Lafangey Parindey where the stars perform pair skating in a reality show. In the movie, Anup along with his partner Avani Panchal even did a body double in parts for Deepika and Neil's final performance in the reality competition.

If it was just reflected glory when the movie was released, Anup and Avani earned their stardom after the Asian Games. They won the bronze medal in the pair skating event and Anup also won a bronze in an individual event. Roller sport made its debut in the China Games.

Deepika was all praise for the skating pair. "They're very talented and were of great help during the shoot of Lafange Parindey. It wouldn't have been possible for me to play my role with conviction without their help." The daughter of former badminton great Prakash Padukone was delighted by the skaters' Asian Games success. "It's nice to hear they won the bronze. I congratulate them and wish them all the best in their future competitions. They've done India proud. I'm always there for any sport for India."

Anup is the country's best artistic skater and has won many international medals, but his invitation by the filmmakers was by chance. "They approached an artistic skating professional in Italy and I used to meet him regularly during the World Championships. So he gave them my reference and I came in contact with Yash Raj Films."

Anup acknowledges where his priorities lie. "Asian Games medals are my real cup of tea and I hope our performance in the Games puts the sport in the Sports Ministry's priority list."

First Published: Dec 10, 2010 23:16 IST