The joy of a podium

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So many things have changed in India since Independence, and even since my entry into the world of sport. In athletics and sports like boxing, there has been tremendous growth. Our athletes are doing a great job. In this regard, the recent performance at the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, UK was particularly encouraging. I congratulate all the athletes who participated. This momentum should be continued – first for tougher upcoming competitions like the World Championships in Athletics, the Asian Games and, of course, the Olympics, but also with the longer term in mind.

Over the next 25 years, I hope to see us shine even brighter on the court and in the ring. In sport, success is measurable – we have to aim for more and more medals. All of our athletes are doing better, but what excites me the most is how young women and girls are bringing glory to the country. In many cases, they outperform men!

Over the years, especially in the last decade, the type of support and facilities available to Indian athletes has improved by leaps and bounds. Gone are the days when talented athletes could not get exposure or were forced to train in facilities and with equipment that did not meet global standards. Now there is both the budget and the support for the athletes to do their best. Under the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) programme, instituted by the current NDA government in 2014, for example, considerable funds have been invested in the training of athletes. As the Tokyo Olympics approached, this gave them a boost.

Now, I see more and more young people and children getting passionate about sport. This passion can turn into concrete results.

If India is able to host the Olympics as soon as possible, one of the ways the sport will get a big boost in the country in the coming years. This will almost certainly lead to the creation of more sporting infrastructure, boost the economy and perhaps most importantly expand the events in which India can be a medal contender. More athletes in various sports will have a chance at least at the qualification level. And, if there is strategic direction, training and dedication, the number of hopefuls and medal winners will surely increase.

Finally, for [email protected], there is a message that I would like to convey to all young people, especially young women and girls in India. There are many ways to succeed and build an identity. But, if you have the talent and the dedication, there is something unique about achieving sporting success at the highest level.

A politician, a businessman, a doctor, an engineer, any other professional – all of these people can accomplish a lot. But an athlete can succeed in a spirit of pure competition. On the field, on the track, on the carpet or in the ring, only merit, physical condition and hard work count. No one can take your talent away from you. A sportsman, when he achieves the highest honors, stands on a podium and holds the flag of India high for the whole world to see. It’s an almost indescribable feeling, just like the pride you feel at that moment.

By the time India turns 100, I want more and more young women and men in this country to have this amazing feeling.

The writer is a six-time World Boxing Championship winner and Olympic, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medalist. This article is part of an ongoing series, which started on August 15, by women who have made an impression, in all sectors


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