The Growing Significance for Sports in India

India hauled 69 medals in the recently concluded Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. This is Team India’s best-ever performance, the last being the 2010 games where it clinched 65 medals. Though the number of medals, as great an achievement as it is, had remained almost the same, it was the sheer quality in India’s performance this time around that had got me quite piqued about the growing significance of sports in India.

It’s true – Sports is indeed no longer but an added luxury that only private schools could afford but is now an integral part of a child’s education. Realizing this, the Sports Ministry has set up a new subject called ‘Health, Physical Education, and Sports’ giving it now the same status as one would to Mathematics or Science.

Sports is no longer part of our education, it is education. Though these changes may seem recent and new, the seeds were sown a decade ago. For this transformation to have surfaced, many sacrifices must have been made and indeed they were.

It is not more evident than in the story of Amit Panghal this Asian Games. His golden run at the games had been built on the sacrifices that his brother, Ajay had made. Ajay, an aspiring boxer himself, quit boxing so that he may provide for his family and let his younger brother continue boxing. His sacrifice began paying dividends last year when Amit won bronze at the Asian Championships. On Saturday, Amit emerged national hero by winning gold, upsetting the Olympic champion in light flyweight category at the Asian Games.

Also, interesting to note is this – the brothers were farmers and had no money to go far to seek boxing training. Had it not been for local coach Anil Dhankar who had set up a boxing academy in the village, the boys would never have dreamed of boxing.

Amit’s golden run at the Asian Games also demonstrates that local, makeshift academies in the country had been laying good foundation across disciplines. These local academies had been carving champions out of these boys.

What is also remarkable is how women have taken to sports. Just two decades ago, they were struggling to have equal rights as men in avenues such as sports. It was quite a heartening sight to see how our girls have performed even better than the men, clinching gold in different sports. They paint the story of new India as it emerges as one of the biggest sporting nations in Asia.

Sports is no longer an indulgence. It is a promising career option now. Each medal won at the Asian Games is going to bolster many more aspiring talents across the country to take up sports more seriously. Sports in indeed growing in significance in our country and I am glad that is it – it is vital for the comprehensive development of our young children, our future.

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