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Up in the hills, no highs for athletes

The decorated Mo Farah attributes his success at the London Olympics and World Championships to high-altitude training in Kenya's Great Rift Valley and the French town of Font-Romeu.

other Updated: Sep 13, 2013 03:15 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times

The decorated Mo Farah attributes his success at the London Olympics and World Championships to high-altitude training in Kenya's Great Rift Valley and the French town of Font-Romeu.

"I work hard at what I do," the Briton had declared from his base in France prior to the Worlds. Sure enough, training in cooler climes played a major hand as he went on to repeat the London feat by making it a double in Moscow, winning the 5,000 and 10,000 gold.

However, back home, the ground reality is quite different. Built for national campers, the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) High Altitude Training Centre in Shilaroo has been crying for attention for some time now.

Laid in early 2010, the synthetic hockey turf has been used for just 60 days - 30 days in 2011 for the junior India hockey camp and another 30 days in June this year by hockey trainees of the Chandigarh and Punjab sports department.

White elephant
The altitude not only makes this turf the world's highest, it is one of the costliest laid in the country, courtesy the cost of transporting it to this hilly area.

The centre also has indoor volleyball courts, built 15 years ago, but they have not been used for a single day in the last three years.

"SAI opened this centre for national campers, but had it opened a day-boarding scheme or run a normal training programme here, the infrastructure would have been utilized properly over the years and given the local youth a chance to contribute to the country's sporting success," said Narain Singh, a sports teacher at the MDSSC School, Matiana, situated 5km from the SAI centre.

With a total population of around 5,000-7,000, there are around 20 villages in a radius of 10km from the SAI centre. Since commuting to the centre isn't an issue for the locals, this can serve as a catchment area for SAI.

"The centre doesn't allow local children to use the facility, but given a chance they can do wonders. SAI should station coaches of the disciplines offered here and run a training centre for locals," said Basant Lal Sharma of Karani Village.

Though centre also has facilities for athletics, weightlifting, basketball, badminton and handball and a hostel for boys and girls, not a single coach is posted here.

Ideal for training
The climate in Shilaroo makes it ideal for players from the plains to train here from April to September, but the locals can use the facility almost round the year.

"Players from the plains train at high altitudes to increase the oxygen-intake capacity of their lungs, but you can imagine the fitness levels of the kids here, for whom walking long distances in tough hilly terrain is a routine thing," said a Chandigarh-based SAI coach.

"The locals are used to the climatic conditions and opening the centre for them will not only allow optimum utilisation from April to September, the facility can also be used in winter, except in December and January when there is heavy snowfall," said Sunny Basal of Brar Village.

Things are looking up as compared to previous years some national camps have been held this year but a lot more needs to be done.

When contacted, SAI director general, Jiji Thomson, said,

"I came to know that the infrastructure at Shilaroo is under-utilised. I am planning to visit the centre shortly and will look at what best can be done there. I have also told executive director LS Ranawat to visit the centre and give his feedback on its utility."

First Published: Sep 13, 2013 03:12 IST