Nursery of Indian Sports

Had Haryana been a nation, it would’ve finished 8th in recently held CWG at Gold Coast

By Adarsh Vinay

To put things into perspective, if Haryana were a country, it would’ve finished eighth in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games medals table. 22 of the 66 medals that Indians won at the Gold Coast event are by Haryana athletes. In other words, one third of all the medals India won at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – 10 gold, 6 silver and 6 bronze – belong to Haryana.

According to the latest census, Haryana has a little over 2.5 crore people, which is about 2% of India’s total population. But over the last decade or so, Haryana has turned itself into the nursery of Indian sports. The tally from Gold Coast is not a one-off. 15 of the 38 Indian gold medal winners at the 2010 CWG were from Haryana as were 22 of the 64 medal winners from the 2014 edition. That’s not all, 3 of India’s 15 individual Olympic medal winners so far are from Haryana too.

So what is it exactly that the state has changed which has helped in transforming itself into a breeding ground for future Indian medal prospects?

For starters, a big bunch of talented athletes, a solid sports policy, state-of-the-art training facilities and major rewards for national and international winners is propelling the state to greater heights. Former world champion shooter Jaspal Rana, who is the current coach of the junior Indian shooting team believes it us mainly to do with the training facilities. “In recent years, Haryana has developed new shooting ranges and that helps because it is a sport that requires investment,” said Rana, talking to TOI.

But more than that, it is the rewards bit that is reaping rich dividends. Haryana recently amended its sports policy to give jobs to international medal winners.  Olympic medalists from now on will be given jobs in the Haryana Civil Services or Haryana Police Service. Other states also offer such jobs but they don’t have set policies on what these jobs will be. And it’s not just Olympic winners, Paralympic Games, Para Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Cups will also receive jobs and prize money.

Haryana also offers the highest prize money to medal winners among all Indian states. An Olympic gold medalist from Haryana gets Rs 6 crores while the Government of India gives Rs 75 lakhs for the same while Indian Railways awards Rs 1 crore. CWG 2018 winners received Rs 1.5 crore, Rs 75 lakh and Rs 50 lakh respectively for gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Haryana government while the Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh government awarded Rs 50 lakhs to their gold medalists. In stark contrast, Punjab awarded Rs 16 lakhs to its gold medalists while Delhi awarded a paltry Rs 14 lakhs. Little wonder then that Haryana athletes are more motivated to succeed.   

And it’s not just medal winners. The Haryana government identifies and awards jobs to future medal prospects which help them pursue their sport and train at the best facilities. What a way to inculcate and improve budding talent!

Haryana boxer Manoj Kumar, who won a bronze at Gold Coast, says, “People in smaller towns of Haryana are not very financially strong, so they enter sports with the hope of a government job. In other states, jobs are given after an athlete has performed at the national level and won medals, but in Haryana, at least recently, even future medal contenders are identified early on and given jobs. That is how many athletes are able to continue with the sport. Other teams like Services and Railways also scout in Haryana because they know yahan talent hai. Even in Railways, we have more sportspersons from Haryana than any other state now.”

This is evident from the fact that a lot of youngsters are picking up the sport. The biggest proof of this is the fact that the record for the youngest Commonwealth Games medal winner from India was broken thrice at the 2018 event and all three athletes were from Haryana. 18-year-old weightlifter Deepak Lather broke the previous record when he won bronze in the 69 kg category. Then 16-year-old shooter Manu Bhaker broke Lather’s record before 15-year-old Anish Bhanwala broke his. Suffice to say, the future of Haryana looks promising!

Two disciplines that Haryana athletes seem to excel in the most are wrestling and boxing. 15 of the 22 medal winners from Haryana at the Gold Coasts are boxers or wrestlers. And that has a lot to do with the people from Haryana being physically stronger. Two-time Commonwealth Heavyweight Professional Champion Wrestler Sangram Singh says “Bete tandarust hone chahiye. We don’t care about whether we have a big house or several cars or not. That is where our physical strength comes from, and that is why Haryana people have excelled in physical sports like wrestling and boxing. Aur ab toh ladke kya, ladkiyan bhi mazboot hoti hain.”

There was promising news in athletics as well. 20-year-old Neeraj Chopra became only the third Indian – after Milkha Singh and Vikas Gowda – to win a Commonwealth Games medal in athletics when he claimed bronze in javelin throw.

Another promising stat to be noted is that Haryana gives equal importance to its female sportspersons as well. Of the 22 medal winners from the state, 8 are women and that bodes well for the future, of both female athletes from Haryana and women in general.

Taking all this into account, it is safe to say that the future of sports in Haryana does look promising. And now that the state has shown us the blueprint, it is high time all the other Indian states followed suit. If done properly, 100 medals at the next Commonwealth Games will not be an unrealistic target.