Odisha will be opening as many as 89 new sporting avenues with 47 dedicated weightlifting centres spreading across the state landscape.
Sportstar has learnt about the recent development as the stadiums will promote athletes competing from athletics to swimming in tournaments that will eventually serve as a ladder for national championships.
Having produced champions like Katulu Ravi Kumar, the 2010 Commonwealth gold medallist and Jhilli Dalabehera, who swept records at the 2020 Asian Weightlifting Championships held in Tashkent, the vision is to produce more athletes of national repute.
“The state has given a green signal for the 89 sporting centres and 47 will be exclusive only for weightlifting. We want to produce athletes who will go on to represent India and it’s a dedicated and indigenous purpose,” said P. Dharma Rao, who serves as the weightlifting coach of Odisha sports and youth services department.
The veteran coach, under whom Ravi and Jhili gained international prominence, said that the sports ministry has already recruited certified weightlifting coaches and that they will be posted in the allocated 54 coaching academies.
“These are Level 1 coaches and they have cleared their certification and the government will order their postings in a short while. We are trying to reach every possible village, town and district and ensure we don’t miss out on good potential talent,” the coach said.
Hailing from the tiny village of Makarprasad, it’s a ‘dream moment’ for Jhili, as she will be among dignitaries attending the Republic Day celebrations in Nayagarh district of Odisha on Thursday.
“It’s something I can’t express. The feeling and I never thought I will be felicitated in such a grand manner. The weightlifting centres are only going to produce more lifters and it’s a first in India that we have many dedicated centres,” she said.
Ravi, currently DSP, Odisha Police, said that around 44 coaches have already been inducted into the programme, and the target is to recruit at least 94 coaches.
“We are in talks and are aware of the challenges. The best part is we have international standard equipment shipping in and all the centres will have two platforms where lifters get the best training. We are creating an atmosphere where they (lifters) get a real feeling of competing in international matches,” he said.
“We are also getting in touch with former lifters, as being a weightlifter, I know and understand how much we miss the sport at the elite level. The programme is to get the veterans back so that they have an opportunity to give back to the sport and society while once again living their dream of weightlifting.”