Just a few years ago, Sabina Kumari and Narayan Mahto did not know how a racing cycle looked like till they decided to enrol for the selection trails organised by the Sports Academy near their respective villages. Hailing from families with a monthly income of ₹3,000 or less, these two names have shown the aptitude and the determination to overcome adversities and become the top junior cyclists of the country with multiple national competition medals to their names.
While Sabina won a gold in her very first appearance in the junior nationals last year, Narayan won five golds in different national competitions in 2019. The common factor uniting the two athletes’ success story is the Jharkhand State Sports Promotion Society (JSSPS), which is instrumental in bringing the sporting dreams of many economically backward tribal children like them to fruition.
Aditya Gaurav, a wrestler with the JSSPS Sports Academy, fetched an international laurel winning a bronze for India in the Under-15 Asian Wrestling Championship in Manama, Bahrain, earlier this month. The profile is getting better with every passing day for the Sports Academy of Ranchi, which presently houses 433 mostly tribal cadets (228 boys and 205 girls) in a completely residential setup. It is a joint venture of Coal India Limited’s subsidiary Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) and the State Government of Jharkhand and has already proven itself as the nursery of grooming talents through proper selection and scientific training methods.
Located in the sprawling state-of-the-art integrated sports complex spread over almost 200 acres in the Hotwar area of the Jharkhand capital, the JSSPS Sports Academy is the address for honing excellence in sports.
“Among the total number of cadets currently training here, 96 percent are from SC, ST and OBC backgrounds. That is our core strength, which is evident in the fact that they have picked up a total of 93 medals ever since the Academy started in 2016,” says Girish Kumar Rathor, who is the general manager of CCL and CEO of JSSPS.
“We currently have 10 disciplines including athletics, cycling (road/track), football, wrestling, boxing, archery, weightlifting, shooting, swimming and taekwondo. We are planning to add another five like tennis, table tennis, badminton, gymnastics and judo from next year to enhance the scope of the Academy,” he added.
With a yearly budget of ₹20-25 crore, the Academy offers all the facilities free of cost to its trainees and has appointed NIS-qualified coaches to provide quality training.
The Sports Academy received a total of 3.24 lakh applications in the Khel Mahakumbh, which is the moniker for the selection trials held annually all over the State to identify talents. The staggering number clearly indicates the amount of interest sports generates in the State but most of the young boys and girls cannot pursue their dreams because most of them hail from very poor economic backgrounds.
This is where the Sports Academy of Ranchi is stepping in with the infrastructure and coaches in a bid to chisel the raw talents into champions. “The CCL, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coal India
Limited is committed to taping the potential of the youth and Sports Academy is proving to be a step in the right direction,” says B. Sairam, executive director (community development-welfare-legal) of Coal India.
The success story of Aditya, Sabina and Narayan is key to the ambitious project launched by the CCL when the State Government sought the support of the Maharatna Company to revive the sports complex, which had run into disuse owing to a lack of maintenance and activity.
The partnership is proving beneficial for the region’s youth as the CCL garnered its professional workforce and expertise to formulate a grassroots and youth development programme for trainees falling in the age group of 10-16 years of age. The Sports Academy also takes care of the academic curriculum and has a school inside the premises to look after the education of its wards.
“The ultimate aim is to get laurels for the country in the Olympics and the youth of this region have the willingness and the skill to excel in different sports,” Sairam said.