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Tribe of athletes

Tribe of athletes
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First Published: Tue, Apr 22 2008. 11 42 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Apr 22 2008. 11 42 AM IST
New Delhi: Seven hundred kilometres from New Delhi, where thousands of crores are being spent on preparations for the Commonwealth Games, lies Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh where a small movement has already begun. Children from all over rural and urban India are being trained at the facility not just as future Indian sportsmen but also as hopeful world champions. What’s more, most of the children are from tribal areas.
They study here, stay in dorms next door, and train on the premises. Many of the youngsters at the academy started out at a Grameen Yuva Kendra (GYK).Sports in Madhya Pradesh was going from bad to worse before these kendras were set up. Every hundred villages and tribal areas got a Kendra devoted to sports. It’s a unique model and results are now beginning to show.
Each Kendra has a coordinator who finds children with promise, educates them and their parents about the programme and then trains them. The coordinator usually is a local sports person who knows the area well. About 30% of children in the academy are recruits from these Grameen Yuva Kendras.
Little wonder then that the state’s medal tally went up from 30 to 63 in the last national games. Also, the last three months have seen MP win over 300 medals at various national-level sports events. Acknowledging this trend, the state government has increased the budget for various athletic programmes including the GYKs from Rs5 to Rs40 crore.
India has seen talented sportsmen from rural and tribal areas claim fame before. Olympians like Manohar Topno from Bihar, athlete Mala Siddhi from Andhra Pradesh and archer Lymba Ram have all been from rural or tribal India. However, experts say schemes that hunt for rural talent have never sustained in the past. Setting up appropriate infrastructure and getting world-class coaches continue to be tough hurdles to overcome. But for now, youngsters in Madhya Pradesh have a chance. They can aspire and hope to make a difference as they hone their sporting skills and bring in the laurels for their home state.
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First Published: Tue, Apr 22 2008. 11 42 AM IST