Will have more athletes at Winter Olympics: Thakur
Sports minister announces slew of develop measures at Khelo India Winter Games; inauguration
It’s that time of the year here when lush green meadows turn white from persistent snowfall. The valleys and slopes, lined with pine trees, overlooking the Pir Panjal range make for a stunning view. There could not have been a better setting for the Khelo India Winter Games (KIWG) that was inaugurated by Union sports minister Anurag Thakur amid fanfare at the Gulmarg Golf Club here on Friday. Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Mukesh Sinha was also present.
KIWG has grown over the three editions – the first one was held in 2020 and second in 2021. From around 1000 athletes and seven sports, this edition will have 1500 athletes, from 29 states and Union territories, competing in 11 disciplines.
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“KIWG is a big platform for budding athletes who want to take up winter sports and reach to the next level,” said Thakur. “They can dream big, use this platform to get into a SAI academy and avail various schemes and programmes which the government has to reach the elite stage.
“India had only one representative in the 2022 Winter Olympics, Arif Khan, and he happens to be from this place. There is great potential for winter sports here and from next time we will have more athletes qualifying in the Winter Olympics.”
Thakur said the government has given a big push to sport in the region over the past couple of years and the results could now be seen.
“The youth here has moved on from throwing stones to taking up various sports, be it cricket, wushu, judo, winter sports. The government wants to encourage sporting activities and I assure you that we are going to provide the best of facilities – be it coaching, finances, infrastructure to the athletes.”
The minister also announced the launch of 40 Khelo India centres across Jammu and Kashmir. These district centres will get ₹10 lakh every year from the Union government, be provided with coaching and sports science expertise, he said. The minister also said a Centre of Excellence for Winter Sports would be opened here.
The athletes, many of whom are in their first KWIG, looked excited as they got ready. “It looks great. I just can’t wait to compete here,” said Gaurav Sharma from Delhi, who will be participating in ice stock, which is like curling. “It is both a summer and winter sport but we have never competed in snow, so everyone is very excited.”
Nishi Chaudhary, from Bulandshahr, UP, will compete in the cross-country sprint. “We are a two-member team and it will be a completely new experience for us. We want to enjoy it and make it a memorable event,” he said.