Get good coaches at junior level for Olympic medals

India has been competing in the track-and-field athletics at the Olympics since
1948, and 70 years down the line, it has merely any medals to show. I am not
trying to discredit the efforts the athletes put at this elite platform. There have
been amazing athletes like Milkha Singh, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, Sriram
Singh, P.T. Usha, and Anju Bobby George; but despite being in their best shape
and form, they failed to win the medals at the Olympic level.

Implementing new strategies have not been helpful either, whether it be
enhancing the efficacy of training of our athletes at the national camps, or
having foreign coaches, or for that matter, augmenting the international
exposure. However, there is a ray of hope in the Indian ace javelin thrower
Neeraj Chopra. Nonetheless, the point is this system has taken so long. As a
former junior national champion and having followed athletics since 1968, I
feel we have not done justice to the potential we have had during these seven
decades.

First and foremost, excellent coaches should be provided not only at the
national levels, but at the grassroots levels as well. Further, investments need
to be made in raising levels of our Indian coaches. If these things could be a
starting point, I am sure we will have numerous athletes capable of doing well
at international levels.

This strategy has been successfully applied by other sporting disciplines. The
first one that comes to mind is the BCCI. Some time back, it realised the need for
bench strength and built a system around India A teams while training and
travelling abroad to Australia, South Africa and England to play cricket.

The results are evidence that our U-19 cricketers or A-team players are ready to be
drafted into the main squad. Players like Mayank Aggarwal, Navdeep Saini and
many others have come on the top in a smooth transition owing to that.
Moreover, BCCI has appointed Rahul Dravid as a coach at that level. He is one
of the finest coaches, and putting a person in charge like him at that level will
reap huge dividends.

Taking another example is the superlative scheme of the national rifle
association of India that drafted Jaspal Rana to head a junior camp for the
young shooting squad of India. We have already seen the likes of Saurabh
Chowdhury, Manu Bhaker, et al, emerging and winning medals at the age of 16
in the World Cup championships and Asian Games. This is all we need to reap
the rewards in the elite athletics too.

The writer, a former National Junior Champion, studied Sports Science at
Loughborough University, UK.

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