"All funding, facilities in Indian athletics limited to young athletes," rues sprinter Amiya Mallick
"Indian athletics has improved a lot due to the corporate structure. But almost all funding, facilities is targeted at the younger athletes," Amiya told The Bridge.
Amiya Kumar Mallick was once considered to be one of India’s biggest sprinting hopes. Having emerged into the scene in the early 2010s, the Odisha lad etched himself in history with a national record timing of 10.26s to cover a distance of 100m.
What made this achievement more prominent was the fact that Amiya was only the second Indian to run a sub-10.30s. The first one to do that was Anil Kumar, who clocked 10.21s way back in the year 2000, but with a wind reading of +2m/s.
Amiya’s national record-breaking run was registered on 28th April 2016. It has been close to 7 years since then and a lot has changed.
Four others – VK Elakkiadasan, KS Pranav, Gurvinder Singh, and Amlan Borgohain, have all dipped below 10.30s, while Amiya himself has fallen off the radar. India has an Olympic gold in athletics. Corporates are pumping money into the sport and athletics has become a much more lucrative career option.
Even as Amiya pushed the country’s newfound sprinting hope Amlan Borgohain to his absolute best at the Indian Grand Prix 3 at the Kanteerava stadium last week, the veteran feels he has been hard done by.
Speaking to The Bridge on the sidelines of the event after clocking 10.52s – just 0.02s off Borgohain, Amiya opened up about Indian athletics and how his career panned out since that day in April 2016.
“At present Indian athletics has improved a lot due to the corporate structure. There is a lot of funding and world-class facilities coming into the sport. But almost all of it is targeted at the younger athletes,” he laments.
“I would love to approach them (corporates) to open up their facilities for senior athletes, who still have a dream and want to do well. I believe it would help a lot of athletes,” he adds.
At 30, Amiya is certainly nearing the twilight of his sprinting career but remains optimistic as ever about further improving his own national record.
“People talk about a lot of things, but I believe they think that I am the only athlete who can raise the bar. Fans have a lot of expectations and that will always be there. I try to take it all in a healthy manner and look to improve my timing further,” he says.
One of the major hurdles for the national record holder in his career has been his constant tussle with injuries, but Amiya implies that he is back to his best fitness-wise.
“With sprinting it is very difficult to stay healthy and fit. I have had almost a 20-year sprinting career starting from the junior level. I have had a lot of career-threatening injuries but have managed to put it all in the past. I am completely fit now,” he stresses.
Almost fully out of the scheme of things currently, Amiya recalled his heydays when he trained with the likes of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake almost 9 years back in 2014.
“I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity. I would like to believe that I was one of the first to open the doors to Jamaica for Indian athletes,” Amiya beams with pride.
“My state government helped me then. My parents backed me financially as well. It was a very fruitful training experience that led to the national record sometime later,” he adds.
Having seen it all in his career, Amiya believes that the best is yet to come for Indian athletics.
“A lot of junior athletes are doing well. There are a few in sprinting. Javelin has taken off after Neeraj’s Olympic win. Jyothi Yarraji is doing well in hurdles, there are a lot of energetic jumpers as well. Track and field is an event to look out for in near future,” Amiya signs off.