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On National Sports Day, looking at the good, bad and ugly of Indian sports

A look into the achievements, disappointments and the controversies in Indian sports which were in headlines in the past one year.

On National Sports Day, looking at the good, bad and ugly of Indian sports

Sounak Mullick

Published: 29 Aug 2019 6:02 AM GMT

In India, where people are obsessed with cricket and football, often relegate other sports in the process and are not aware of this particular day dedicated to celebrating India's sporting glory. Today, August 29, we observe National Sports Day coinciding with the birth anniversary of India's hockey legend  Dhyan Chand.

Scrutinising Indian sports on the 114th birth anniversary of the hockey wizard, it is safe to say that the country has traversed a long distance from being a sports-watching nation to a sports-playing nation. The last one year has been quite a revelation for India's sporting ecosystem, where talents from the country have performed significantly well across global stages, has often embroiled in controversies and also, often have resulted in disappointment. So let us take a look at the good, bad and ugly of Indian sports in the past one year.

The Good

It's been not even a week that India witnessed its greatest triumph in badminton with P V Sindhu becoming the World Champion on Sunday outplaying Japan's Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7. The title which was a long-elusive dream for the country came after 42 years of wait and the Hyderabadi shuttler was in the fray since 2013 to lift this coveted gold medal. After losing out in the final in 2017 and 2018, Sindhu held her perseverance strongly and went on to lift the trophy. Sindhu's victory bears a testament of India's sporting success in the recent history. As not only in badminton, but we showcased promises in sports that were never our game earlier, for example, volleyball and cycling.

Volleyball, which had gained a good footing in India as a regional sport, had not made strides at a global level as it somehow was relegated as a sport in the periphery like several other non-cricketing sports in the country. However, the recent result at this Asian U-23 tournament, where India created history by winning the silver medal for the first time is the proof of the country's new-found success in this sport.

The Indian volleyball team at the Asian U-23 Volleyball Championships
The Indian volleyball team at the Asian U-23 Volleyball Championships

The Indian national anthem was played out for the first time at the award ceremony of the Junior Track Cycling World Championships as Esow Alben, L Ronaldo Singh, Y Rojit Singh and Jemsh Singh stepped on to the podium winning India’s first gold at a world cycling event, senior or junior. The trio dominated the 250m, steeply banked wooden track clocking 45.094 seconds at an impressive average speed of 59.87km/hr.

India's medal counter went on ticking in wrestling where Bajrang Punia kept up his impressive form consistently straight from the Asian Games 2018 and went on to clinch a total of five gold medals in his stride till August 2019. On the other hand, at 36, India's boxing queen Mary Kom still continues to overthrow challenges inside the boxing ring with her every bout. In December, Mary became the World Champion boxer in her weight category for the sixth time. This year, her success shone brightly with a gold medal at the President's Cup. Both Bajrang and Mary Kom will be seen flexing their prowess at the wrestling and boxing World Championships, respectively, later this year.

In football, we saw the women's team climbing up the FIFA ranking ladder. Even though the Men’s team has shown a vast improvement in the past few years, the women have been in the limelight recently. The 2019 Special Olympic Games was a huge success for the Indian contingent having won a whopping 398 medals, which includes 85 gold, 154 silver and 124 bronze.

Indian athlete Dutee Chand became the first Indian track and field athlete to win a Gold medal at the Summer World University Games in Napoli, Italy. She claimed a top podium finish in the women’s 100m sprint event. Dutee Chand furthur gained the limelight when she came out of closet and declared that she was in a same-sex relationship. Dutee's courage was lauded across all quarters and she was hailed as India's first openly gay athlete.

Indian paddlers made merry at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships in Cuttack earlier this year. Harmeet Desai and Ayhika Mukherjee won Gold in Men’s and Women’s individual events respectively. India also won top honours in the Men’s, Women’s and Mixed doubled events respectively.

Odisha has once again proved its worth in the field of sports, having hosted major international events, including the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships and the Odisha Men's Hockey World Cup. The Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar also staged football's Hero Super Cup.

The Bad

While there were many achievements which went made India as a proud representative of sports at global stages, there have also been issues within that portrayed Indian sports in poor light. After initial talks of hosting the National Games in 2015, the organisers, Goa has yet to honour their commitment. Meanwhile, the Indian Olympic Association is not too happy about the delay and has threatened to impose the hosts a fine of 100 million if eventually, the event does not take place. The agreement to stage the National Games in Goa was signed back in 2011!

Six-time world champion pugilist, Mary Kom, also recently grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons. During a press conference, she suggested that proven boxers should not undergo selection trials. The Manipuri justified that she did nothing wrong for asking an exemption from the trials of the World Championships.

The International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) warned India for denying Visas to Pakistani shooters for the World Cup in Delhi. Muhammad Khalil and Ghulam Mustafa Bashir were not allowed to participate in the meet due to the terrorist attacks in India earlier this year.

Babita Phogat joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, recently
Wrestler Babita Phogat joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, recently

In spite of initial plans of conducting a lavish award function in Panchkula to give away prize money of Rs. 90 crores its athletes, the Haryana Government scrapped the event. Not only that, the organisation transferred the money to their individual bank accounts and the amount was curtailed. Top athletes like Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Yogeshwar Dutt slammed at the governing body for the incident.

Hailing from the infamous ‘Phogat’ family, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, Babita Phogat, joined politics at a young age. She became one of the many athlete-turned politicians to have joined the Bharata Janata Party (BJP).

Indian sprinter Hima Das won five gold medals in July at a couple of athletics meet in Europe. However, her success was blown out of proportion with netizens equating them with Olympics, where she has not even qualified for the Olympics or the World Championships. The frenzy was further fuelled with fake news of her winning six medals pedalling across social media.

One of the unfortunate turns of events was the demise former Minister of Defence and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on March 17. The veteran leader played a significant role in developing sports in the country and his state.

The Ugly

Not only the good and bad, but there were also issues which came to the fore revealing the volatility of the sporting ecosystem affecting our players' performance. One of the major concerns stand today as the hostility within the several National Sports Federations. The Indian Archery Association has been under the scanner for quite some time now. It an unfortunate turn of events, the organisation was suspended by the World Archery for defying its guidelines and electing two parallel bodies. The AAI has been given time to resolve the matter. 

Indian rower Dattu Bhokanal, who was suspended for two years by the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) landed himself in trouble recently. Reportedly, he submitted to the Bombay Court a criminal case that he would not be able to compete in the World Championships of the charges against him was not withdrawn. 

World Archery suspended the Archery Association of India for defying its guidelines and electing two parallel bodies

The Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) was at fault when the National Team failed to make a cut to the 2018 Asian Games. The Federation had selected a team in May but later cancelled the selection because the selection was void. Following that, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said that no equestrian squad would be sent to Jakarta due to discrepancies in the selection, but later a seven-member squad was selected for the Asiad, with Fouaad Mirza winning a Silver medal.

Indian sprinter Gomathi Marimuthu failed a dope test for a banned steroid. She was in a state of shock after her 800m Gold medal win at the Asian Championships in Doha. She was provisionally suspended by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). Days after the sports minister Kiren Rijiju called for doping-free sports in the country in one of his innumerable tweets, he revealed in the parliament, the number of athletes caught for doping in 2018-2019. It is not just alarming, but might even be the highest ever. The unbelievable number of 187 dope cheats out of 4348 samples collected is, if not the highest, one of the highest in the annals of Indian National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) history.

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