By Dr. K.B. Chinnappa, Retired Professor of Physical Education, Bangalore University
The dismal performance of India in the Rio Olympics-2016 has prompted one to coin a new motto, ‘Physically fit Indians, Olympic fit India’ — May be as a long-term remedial measure to raise the standards of Indian sports to the medal-winning level.
India, even though is having ultra-modern sports arena for different sports disciplines, having highly technical modern sports materials, gadgets, kits and personal gears, having sports sciences-oriented teachers, trainers and coaches, having fitness experts, having sports physicians, having sports psychologists, having expert nutritionists, could send only 118 sportspersons out of a staggering population of 121 crore to compete in only 115 sections in 15 sports disciplines out of the available 307 sections in 28 disciplines.
Even those 118 sent performed humiliatingly so low that India could win just one silver medal and one bronze medal thus pushing the country to the 67th position among the Olympic medal-winning countries. The problem for the selectors is “All are ineligible, whom to select.”
This sad story shows that there is a drastic dearth of sport-fit youth in the country even though the youths form about 30 percent of the total population.
Now the questions: Where did India go wrong and where Indian sports authorities stumble?
We see in the present day, majority of youths are relaxing, enjoying the benefits of ultra-modern, comfort-giving gadgets, consuming regularly high-caloried packed rich food, abstaining from exercise schedules, thus developing a casual attitude towards an active lifestyle and becoming couch-potatoes.
Added to this, the ‘mobile culture’ is also making them to forget the value of time. As a result, more and more youths are becoming either overweight or obese.
This trend is corroborated by the outcome of a fact-finding survey conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and also a reputed insurance company to assess the level of health status especially of the urban set up. The findings are startling — About 35 percent of male, 50 percent of female, 70 percent of youths in the age group of 25 and 40 and 30 percent of schoolchildren are either overweight or obese.
With this status of youth fitness, how can our Prime Minister Narendra Modi visualise India winning more and more medals in the ensuing 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics. The aspiration may turn a mirage unless a beginning is made right away.
So it is evident that there is definitely a very acute short supply of highly-talented sports persons in India. This dearth of talent is posing a problem to the National Selectors: “Whom to select, no one is eligible.” Even with a faint hope of a better performance by those selected, they pushed the performance to nadir, lowest level.
Now the urgent need of Indian sports is to raise the standard of fitness by a planned procedure. But this cannot be achieved overnight. It calls for a long-range meticulously planned and properly executed process with incessant effort by all concerned in all aspects of the problem and definitely beginning right from the young age, preferably from the primary school level.
The Central Government, along with the general education, must integrate or include Physical Education, Sports Education and Yoga Education, in all Primary and High Schools throughout the country so that the seed of ‘fitness consciousness’ is sowed in them. The seed may sprout with the help of parents, and qualified teacher-trainers and coaches. The Government may provide modern sports materials and play fields.
The parents and experts must instil confidence so that the students’ mind is set and total involvement in the programme is assured, because it is only the willing mind that takes to drills to master the skills and deliver a thrilling performance.
After a decade and a half, these young talented and fit children will have grown as most fit youths. Then India will have perennial supply of physically fit and mentally alert youth capable of competing at the International level.
Once again the National Selectors will face another type of problem in selection, “whom to reject, all are eligible.”
This problem is the most welcome problem, may be a medal-winning problem.
Not only in the sports field, even in the defence area and also in the areas where totally fit personnel are required, we will have perennial supply of fit Indian youths and incidentally India will be fit to take on International competitors.
A fit India is a productive India, a progressive India, a prosperous India and assuredly a medal-winning India.
Finally, the youths may be reminded of the clarion call of Swami Vivekananda: ‘Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.’
[The author can be contacted on Mob: 95350-68766.]