TNI Bureau: India’s best ever performance in the recently concluded London Olympics has made sports enthusiast stand up and acknowledge the new heroes of Indian sports. This event has also brought in a paradigm shift in a nation which has been voodoo by Cricket. Boxing and Wrestling have emerged as the new kids on the block for Indian sports. India has never produced a world champion in these sports but these are the regular medal getters in Asian and Common Wealth Games. Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Vijender Kumar and Mary Kom are the new pin up idols of the Indian kids.
Boxing has always been one of the most enjoyed sports in India. Many boxers had brought laurels to the country. In 1990, Raj Kumar Sangwan received the Arjuna award which increased the popularity of boxing. Mary Kom created history when she became the first Indian woman boxer to win a bronze in London Olympics in the fly weight category. She is the five time world boxing champion. She is the only Indian woman to have won a medal in each of the six world championships. Padma Shri awardee Vijender Singh is credited with immense contribution to Indian boxing. Vijender became the blue eyed boy of Indian boxing with his bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics 2008. In 2009, Vijender was ranked as the world number one in the middle weight category by the International Boxing Association.
Wrestling in India has a glorious and prestigious past. Historically, it finds mention in the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. India has produced world class grapplers like Dara Singh, KD Jadhav, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt. Sushil Kumar is the only Indian to win back to back titles in Olympic Games. In 2010, he became the first Indian to win gold medal at the world wrestling championship. Yogeshwar Dutt and Sushil Kumar have won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards.
Both Indian Boxing Association and Wrestling Federation of India should leverage this opportunity to further popularize these sports in the country. They can work on two level of initiative like the bottom driven and the top driven. In the bottom driven approach, the focus should be on churning talent from schools and colleges. A league or series of tournaments can be instituted to filter the upcoming sportsmen. Clear and transparent systems of evaluation would instil confidence in youngsters.
The top driven approach would be to provide excellent training facilities and perks to players representing at national and international levels. The top sports officials can work out better remuneration packages for elite sportsmen in these categories. Media can be roped in to provide the additional coverage to increase popularity.
For some unfathomable reasons, the government has lacked initiatives to bring these sports to fore front. Lack of sponsors, adequate training facilities and infrastructure is plaguing Indian sports like never before. The government needs to act before it gets knocked out from the ardent fans and supporters of these sports.