Called social media sensations for trials to show I'm there for athletes: Rijiju

In the trials conducted for Madhya Pradesh's social media sensation Rameshwar Gurjar, he could not live up to the hype and completed 100m in 12.9 seconds.

Sports minister Kiren Riju (left) and Kambala jockey Srinivas Gowda of Karnataka

Sports minister Kiren Riju (left) and Kambala jockey Srinivas Gowda of Karnataka   -  PTI / H.S. Manjunath

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, on Sunday, conceded that calling for urgent trials for social media sprint sensations, seen running with buffaloes, were decisions taken under pressure to appear hands-on in his job.

Kambala jockey Srinivas Gowda of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh’s Rameshwar Gurjar hit national headlines last year for running in slushy and dusty fields, respectively.

They were believed to have completed 100m sprints in about 11 seconds, creating a flutter on social media platforms, where some dubbed them the next Usain Bolt.

“In Madhya Pradesh, somebody had a video of a village boy running on social media. It was commented that he runs faster than Usain Bolt. When it became viral, I could have ignored it, but suppose I don’t react on time, people will say the sports minister is silent, is not taking cognizance,” he said.

In the trial though, Gurjar could not live up to the expectations and could barely complete the 100m distance in 12.9 seconds.

Rijiju added, “Shivraj Singh Chouhan also asked me to look into the matter. So I sent my Sports Authority of India (SAI) team to test the guy in Bhopal. I knew his capability but the country doesn’t know what is the nature of the sport. People just started saying he runs faster than Bolt and that is because of the lack of awareness.”

“During the test he wouldn’t even compete with the junior guys; forget the seniors. He can’t run even 13 seconds flat in 100m. He never trained, he was 25/26, so age was also not on his side. He didn’t know how to wear spikes.”

Rijiju also spoke about the story around Kambala jockey Gowda, whose exploits during a traditional buffalo race in Karnataka created a buzz on social media, forcing the minister to call the 28-year-old for a trail at the Bengaluru centre of SAI.

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This was after after video clips of him running a distance of 100 metres in just 9.55 seconds had surfaced.

“Even some of the professional people, some of the businessmen, some of the renowned people of India stated that now this guy will bring Olympic gold in 100m,” Rijiju said.

“I had to show sections who don’t know sports that I am hands-on with Indian sports and I am there for the athletes. I will give all the opportunities to all potentials,” he said.

The minister said it’s high time people broaden their knowledge about sports other than cricket to enable India become a sporting powerhouse.

“Many people complained to me that the government does not contribute or support enough for the development of sports in India. Let me make it very clear. Knowledge about sports in India is very, very low. People know only about cricket, people don’t know about other sports,” Rijiju said.

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