Khelo India, a winner amid the anti-CAA protests in Assam

Several inspiring stories, which emerged from the third edition of Khelo India Youth Games will definitely drive youngsters into participating in the event.

Finishing on top: The Games saw Maharashtra retain supremacy with a rich collection of 78 golds and 77 silvers in a total of 256 medals.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

The third edition of Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), with the addition of cycling and lawn bowl, in Guwahati, was a fine success in its bigger and larger avatar.

Considering its tumultuous backdrop owing to anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests that had paralysed life in Guwahati for a few days in December and continued to simmer for over a month, the 13-day multi-sport event — notwithstanding some organisational glitches — deserves credit as a well-conducted and peaceful sporting extravaganza.

Several inspiring stories, which emerged from Assam and elsewhere during the KIYG, will definitely propel under-17 and under-21 youngsters participating in the event to give consistent performances in the transition phase and perform even better when they graduate to the elite level.

The KIYG can be considered as an ideal alternative to replace the National Games, which have been perennially marred with inordinate delays and controversies. The delays in National Games have only resulted in spiralling of costs, including that of infrastructure.

If part of the funds spent on a massive exercise like National Games can be diverted towards the KIYG, the young sportspersons can benefit immensely from it.

The annual KIYG also makes different cities to get used to holding multi-sport events and helps the country to stay prepared with more than one alternative to host prestigious international Games at a short notice period.

It provides the scope for using the existing infrastructure and encourages cities to build new facilities and promote sports.

Colourful: Mascots of Khelo India at the inaugural ceremony.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

The talent hunt exercise is a praiseworthy aspect of the KIYG. Engaging talent scouts to spot promising athletes, facilitating good training to sportspersons and helping them with a monthly scholarship of Rs. 10,000 are steps which have been benefiting hundreds of talented youngsters.

A majority of them acknowledge that the scholarship has taken care of certain needs of their training. While a weightlifter from an economically-challenged background uses the money to get a good diet, a shooter spends the amount to meet a part of the massive expenses in pursuing her sport.

“The athletes selected in the Khelo India scheme, after putting up good performances in the Khelo India Games, receive boarding, lodging and training free of charge in various accredited academies across the country.

“With the advent of the Khelo India scheme, we are expecting good results in the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. We have declared 20 centres as national centres of excellence in India. The athletes, who perform well at the KIYG, will be given admission in the centres which have been declared as national centre of excellence,” said Sandip Pradhan, the Director General of Sports Authority of India.

The experience and ambience of KIYG gives the athletes a simulation of multi-disciplinary Games experience. It should help them from not getting awe-struck when they represent the country in elite meets such as the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.

“Our objective is to take the KIYG as close as possible to the international multi-disciplinary competitions so that when our athletes go abroad for events, they should not experience any wow factor. We have to create international exposure in India,” said Pradhan.

Moreover, the KYIG puts on display the future stars of Indian sports and promises them a good grooming ground.

The Games saw Maharashtra retain supremacy with a rich collection of 78 golds and 77 silvers in a total of 256 medals, leaving Haryana to end with 200 medals.

Class act: With eight medals to show for his efforts, Karnataka swimmer Srihari Nataraj stole the limelight.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

With eight medals to show for his efforts, Karnataka swimmer Srihari Nataraj shared the limelight with Assam’s Shivangi Sarma who won five golds and two silvers to emerge the most successful girl.

Proud local: Assam’s Shivangi Sarma who won five golds and two silvers was the most successful girl.   -  PTI

 

The pool saw the emergence of some other talented swimmers, including Soubrity Mondal and Swadesh Mondal of West Bengal, Keinisha Gupta, Kareena Shankta and Apeksha Fernandes of Maharashtra among others.

Fourteen-year-old Asmi Badade (four golds, one silver) and 20-year-old Aditee Dandekar (three golds, one silver and one bronze) made Maharashtra proud in gymnastics. Jatin Kanojia, who claimed four golds and one silver, and Tripura’s Priyanka Dasgupta, who secured four golds, were some of the top performers in gymnastics.

Kerala athletes helped their State shine in athletics. Ancy Joseph, who bagged the 100m, long jump and 4x100m relay golds, led the success story of the Kerala track and field squad.

Haryana’s domination of the boxing ring was absolute. Its boxers claimed 47 medals, including 15 golds and 14 silver medals. A measure of the State’s superiority in boxing can be seen from the fact that its closest rival, Maharashtra, secured only 19 medals, including six golds. A few of these 19 medals were won by north-east boxers training at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.

Traditional powerhouses such as Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra garnered most of the medals in wrestling. Haryana had a major share of the medals in the shooting range. Maharashtra also had a significant share of medals in weightlifting. Assam had a massive success in lawn bowl, collecting medals in all 10 events, including seven golds.

“All the facilities used for the tournament have been of international standards and the competition has achieved the objective for which the KIYG was conceived. The quality of talent in sports has gone up considerably. It is great to see the rise of talent from rural areas. We have created a platform for all athletes to showcase their talent,” said an upbeat Pradhan.

It is heartening to see that the Government is also serious about reviving university sports and has already announced the conduct of the Khelo India University Games in Bhubaneswar from February 22 to March 1. It will be interesting to see how the University Games complement the KIYG over the next few years.

“Essentially, we want to host two tournaments — one at the youth level and the other at the university level,” said Pradhan.

Wise use of the platforms and funds will be important in backing youngsters as India is aspiring to host bigger multi-discipline events and emerge as a sporting power in the world.

Success story

Among the many success stories at the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati, the JSW-backed Inspire Institute of Sports (IIS) in Bellary has its own tale.

Altogether 26 out of 29 athletes, who participated in KIYG (in boxing, wrestling, judo and athletics), have won medals and 13 of them have bagged golds.

“It is important to understand that the kids training out of IIS are very young and raw in terms of their careers. So definitely going for this sort of competitions have a positive impact on the overall scheme of things,” said Manisha Malhotra, the head of sports excellence and scouting of JSW.

IIS is careful about helping young talents graduate to the elite level.

“It is a long journey from the cadets/juniors to the seniors. Most of our sports are individual sports and so each kid will have a different plan depending on the situation. They have to keep getting better at the sport and have more training competitions to measure where they stand and then go back to the drawing board with improvements; so it’s a long cycle. The period of transition from juniors to seniors is where it gets tricky and a lot of attention needs to be paid.”

IIS is planning to open a training centre for swimming and hopes to carry forward its success story up to the highest level.