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Saturday, Nov 23, 2019

If we work like this, India will be a force at the 2028 Olympics, says Sports Minister Rathore

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is confident that the country would be a sporting power within the decade.

other-sports Updated: Dec 09, 2018 21:11 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
File image of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
File image of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.(PTI)

The sports ministry’s flagship Khelo India School Games, which was launched early this year, threw up many young athletes with teenaged pistol shooter, Manu Bhaker winning multiple medals and proving the face of the event launched by the government to encourage youth to take to sports in a big way.

Hardly a year on, it is being expanded with sports minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, announcing at a function in New Delhi on Sunday that it would be upgraded to Khelo India Youth Games and staged in Pune from January 9 to 20. Competitions will be held in 18 events, with college-level athletes being brought into the fold.

With a new slogan #5MinuteAur (five more minutes on the playing field), the minister is confident, it will help encourage more youth take up sport seriously. “Last time, 3,500 kids took part. This time 9,000 will take part. This is inspired by the college games in the US,” he said.

Shooters Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary and Esha Singh, lifter Jeremy Lalrinnunga, shuttler Lakshya Sen, judoka Tababi Devi and swimmer Srihari Natraj – all Khelo India Games medallists who have gone on to impress at international level, were present, along with double Olympic medallist, Sushil Kumar.

In an interaction explaining the Modi government’s keenness to change India’s sports landscape on the sidelines of the function, the Olympic silver medal-winning shooter was confident the country would be a sporting power within the decade.

How has Khelo India worked?

Khelo India came up with a vision of the Prime Minister. He felt we should create within our country a landscape where our young children are able to get an aspirational platform. We should be able to identify talent and groom them in an international class environment. It was for both the health of the country and to promote bonding and team work.

Sport, unlike education, is not limited to the classroom. Ups and downs in life take too long, but in the sports field, they come within half an hour. These lessons cannot be learnt from books in classrooms. I am proud with the support and dynamism of the Prime Minister, we were able to push through the first games – we did it in record time. There were many who felt it could not happen. Thankfully it did. We already have a standard and some very young children have been able to make a mark internationally.

Besides 9,000 participants, which is phenomenal, we will have 100 plus hours of HD broadcast over 10 days. We have created two age-groups, U-17 and U-21. The school games are now the youth games and I expect this to stay on. The idea is to bridge the gap from potential to podium.

What are the challenges for Indian sport to reach the top level?

One is teamwork between the various stake-holders. The education and sports departments of the states had never come together, but they did in the first games. They must work in sync. These are kids, and both education and sport are important for them. The other was federations and School Games Federation of India coming together. Now, we are taking the best from the federations and SGFI. Similarly, the talent will come from the colleges now.

The challenge was also to think out of the box for our administrators. We were able to push through out-of-the-box thinking because of our Prime Minister and the way I have been groomed under him. The basic idea is we create an environment. If rules don’t permit, we need to amend them. I am very happy my office and SAI are doing that. We’re able to do many things not thought of till now.

Where do we stand on the road to 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

I’m very proud of our TOPs (Target Olympic Podium scheme) research. It goes into every detail of athletes. Mapping their performance is fantastic. It blows the mind of people, federations come and see things. They are taking advantage of TOPs. The athletes are getting the advantage. We know the past, present and future performance of the athlete as much as the athlete himself. So, we’re able to provide the right intervention.

In 2020, we are hopeful we’ll be able to put up a good mark. But remember performances don’t happen overnight, 2020 is very close. When we put together a system, it carries on. We are confident of 2024 and 2028. I challenge everyone for 2028 if we are allowed to work like this.

What are your view on doping cases in Indian track and field?

We’re concerned about any malpractices in any sector. This is something (reform) that needs to come from the society. It should start from parents, ‘we will not cheat’. When I look at myself in the mirror and say ‘am I a champion’? I need to know that answer, ‘have I cheated and become a champion or am I a real champion inside me?’ That is very critical. Too much of incentives are coming in and they certainly become incentives for a few to cheat. Both education and measures to control are there, which we have put in place.

In SAI, we are giving more weightage to coaches. They are taking part in decision making. We are upgrading their stages, giving them higher salaries. In the last governing body meeting of SAI, we broke down the ceiling for national academies and a 100 percent increase was made for all staff with a rider – DG-SAI can further increase it to any level. That is to open up (performances). Then diet money – the diet money of a 15-year-old was 1/3 of an 18-year-old in the same sport. We got it to the same level because a 14-year-old needs as much nutrition as anyone else.