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Do Indian athletes fear failure?

With empty lanes and a canceled event at the Indian Grand Prix-1, Indian athletes aren't helping the fans' cause in any away.

Do Indian athletes fear failure?

D.P Manu's acrobatic effort captured the attention of fans at the Indian Grand Prix-1 (Photo credit: The Hindu)


Rahul Kargal

Updated: 2 May 2024 10:05 AM GMT

When shot-putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor won gold at the 2023 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships and followed it up with another victory at the Asian Athletics Championships, dreams of Olympic success were fast ignited.

Clearly, the national and Asian record-holder is a bright light in Indian athletics.

Which is why the Bengaluru-crowd at the Indian Grand Prix-1 earlier this week, waited with bated breath for a rare opportunity to watch a continental champion - in flesh and blood.

But as the sun set and the floodlights took effect, the burly champion was nowhere to be found.

A no-show

The ‘call room’ is where athletes report ahead of an event, signaling their presence and readiness to begin. But even as the designated time drew close, Toor wasn’t in sight.

Siddharth Rao and Sourabh Vij, two other shot-putters, weren’t around either.

Befuddled officials then waited for the cut-off time and thereafter, canceled the shot-put event, much to the disappointment of fans and several young athletes present at the Sri Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium.

Empty lanes

It wasn’t just the shot-putters that were missing in action. In the sprint-events, not all the lanes were full in the women’s 100m-dash.

“I don't know why they shy away from competition,” said a former athlete in conversation with The Bridge.

“The more competitions you take part in, even if you don't do well, you can analyze your performance and come back stronger in the next event.”

“For the women's long-jump, the cut off was 5.80m. There are several that have achieved that cut off but didn't participate,” added the now retired athlete, with a hint of dismay.

With a fine display in 2023, Toor had set his sights on Paris 2024. And the Indian Grand Prix-1 was a great opportunity for the athlete from Punjab to punch his Olympic-ticket and begin preparations thereafter.

Chances are that the celebrated shot-putter wasn’t ready but there’s no denying that the no-show is now a missed opportunity.

The pressure factor

“Athletes are constantly under pressure to perform. Every jump or throw matters,” said a coach present at the Indian Grand Prix-1.

For athletes to stay in the game, sponsorship matters. And the only way for an athlete to ensure that a contract stays unaffected is to deliver every single time they turn up.

Fitness and form notwithstanding, the pressure to constantly deliver the goods is palpable.

That said, could not turning up be a strategy to avoid certain defeat?

Fans, though, need to see the best show up and put on a performance - like the charismatic Praveen Chithravel did, in the triple-jump event.

And in a cricket-crazy nation where track-and-field brings up the rear on the popularity charts, it’s only when athletes put on a show that fans throng the stands and kids take to a sport.

Fear of failure, therefore, must be eradicated from the mind of Indian athletes.

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