The unsung sports heroes of India
India has failed to promote the diversity in sports and has not acknowledged sportspersons who have brought laurels to the country.
In a country like India, sports is not seen as an activity but is celebrated across the nation as a festival. However, unfortunately, not many sports get the dues that they deserve like the way cricket and its players do. Media commercialization today, being at its peak, promotes sports which will fetch them more viewership. More often than not, we fail to acknowledge the achievements of those sportspersons who stand at a friendly distance from the limelight.
One out of the many athletes who can verify such a treatment is Kaustubh Radkar from Pune who is a 19 times Ironman finisher. He is India’s elite swimmer and athlete who started swimming at the age of 9 and later went on to win medals for Pune and Maharashtra. As the face of Ironman in India, he finished his first race in Arizona in 2008, with a smashing time of 11 hours 41 minutes and 36 seconds, the fastest debut for an Indian. He is the only Asian in the world to have completed the Ironman triathlon across six continents, has represented India at several Asia-Pacific Championships and is the first and only Indian to be an Ironman Certified Coach in the year 2015. However, recently when Ultraman was held, Radkar, as well as model Milind Soman, participated in the sport. Sadly, despite performing much better than Soman, all the limelight was stolen away from him. The Government must use stature of champions like Kaustubh Radkar to promote different sports instead of letting them languish in poverty and anonymity. Similar is the case of Dola Banerjee from Baranagar, West Bengal, who despite being able to make her mark felt in the field of archery,
remains oblivious to the public at large. She became World champion in archery by winning the gold medal in the Women’s individual recurve competition at Dubai in November 2007. She won a gold medal in Women’s Team Recurve with other two in 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. She also won a Bronze medal at the Recurve Individual event. She is the second woman archer to be awarded the Arjuna award by the Government of India in 2005 but how many Indians know about this? India lacks serious sports culture as sports other than cricket are not given much importance. The mind-set of parents and schools must change in order to promote other sports as career options, focusing more on physical development.
Playing carrom is a pastime activity for most, but for A. Maria Irudayam, it is his life. He is the perfect inspiration for people who want to convert their passion into a career. He is one of the best carrom players and the only one to ever win an Arjuna award. He won the Carrom World title in 1991 and again in 1995 and is a nine-time national champion of India. He has also won titles at The Champions Championship (1998), at the French Open International Carrom Tournament (1998) as well as the SAARC Carrom Championship in 1998. However, despite bringing international recognition and honour to the country, he lived a life of mediocrity, away from the limelight he deserved. The Government must consider it to be their responsibility to fund the training of such talented players because one cannot continue their passion without adequate governmental aid at the international level. This aid must not only be limited to cricket but to all other sports.
“The media must consider it as its duty to give coverage to the honour
that these sportspersons bring to the country”
Much recently, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, an Indian female weightlifter, won a gold medal in the 48kg category at 2017 World Weightlifting Championships held in Anaheim, United States. Unfortunately, perhaps because it was not cricket, she did not get the love and respect she deserved. She has earlier also won silver medal in the Women’s 48kg weight category at the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Glasgow. Due to the scarcity of stadiums, playgrounds, poor sports systems in schools and colleges, the interest of people in other sports are put down. Those who cannot afford private coaching tend to give up their interests. Thus, the government must pay due attention in building up the appropriate infrastructure for sportsperson belonging to all kinds of sports.Something similar happened to Shiva Keshavan, who despite excelling in a sport called ‘Luge’ which sadly most of the Indians are unaware of, got very little recognition. He is a five-time Olympian and the first Indian representative to compete in Luge at the Winter Olympic Games and has won a gold medal in Asia Cup 2011 in Japan. He has also won a gold medal in Asian Luge Cup in the year 2012, silver in 2009 and bronze in 2005 and 2008. But sadly, hardly did any of his achievements got media coverage. Media must take up the role of creating awareness among the people about the diversity in sports to encourage youth in taking up different sports apart from cricket as their career. The media must consider it as its duty to give coverage to the honour that these sportspersons bring to the country.
These are only a few examples out of so many talented sportsperson who despite contributing to the honour and prestige of their country have failed to get the reward they deserve. Mainstream sports like cricket has overtaken the space for all the other sports to grow and prosper. Even if people want to learn about different sports, enthusiasm is not created as they do not hear about them much. This is the area where media needs to promote the diversity in sports, keeping aside their lust for getting more viewership, for the greater good of the country.
It is never too late. If proper steps are taken to educate and inform people about the ‘not-so-popular’ sports, people will appreciate and will give due credit to the sports stars who did not get the love and respect they deserve. India has the capacity and ability to produce world-class champions in the field of sports; all it requires is some polishing and nourishing in the form of love and support from its people.