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In times gone by, India’s presence on the international sporting stage was often characterized as more symbolic than competitive a nation that participated, not necessarily with medal aspirations. However, a remarkable transformation has swept through India’s sporting landscape in recent years, culminating in a shift that has left an indelible mark on our nation. The shift is simple yet profound: from being content with participation to believing in victory and winning medals. This transformation, especially among India’s youth and their families, is nothing short of remarkable.
Once upon a time, we viewed participation as the primary goal, harboring doubts about our athletes’ ability to compete with sporting giants like China and Korea, let alone clinch medals against them. This narrative underwent a seismic shift, courtesy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Ministry of Sports, who boldly embraced the challenge of redefining India’s sporting identity. They infused the nation with a renewed enthusiasm and a strong determination towards sports.
The government assured athletes that their talents were boundless, and they could not only compete but excel on the global stage, bringing home coveted medals. The results are there for all to see. The recent edition of the Asian Games, hosted in China, conveyed a resounding message: India is teeming with talent; what’s needed is the right nurturing and guidance. This milestone marks the commencement of what we aptly term India’s ‘Golden Era’ in sports.
Previously, Indian athletes’ medal-winning exploits on the international stage were largely celebrated in urban centers, with the fervor typically reserved for cricket victories. However, this tradition is evolving. India is now on the cusp of becoming a sporting powerhouse.
This transformative spirit extends beyond sports alone. India’s prowess has been consistently demonstrated on the global stage, whether it’s space exploration, scientific breakthroughs, or advancements in healthcare. However, the field of sports didn’t quite keep pace with the nation’s overall progress. This is precisely where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focused attention and visionary approach came into play.
In a country where sports often took a backseat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took it upon himself to boost the confidence of our athletes. He personally engaged with them, offering support not only in moments of victory but also in times of defeat, providing encouragement and guidance. This approach has had a profound impact and has steadily elevated India’s performance on the international sports arena.
Initiatives like ‘Khelo India’ and ‘Fit India’ were foundational in reshaping India into a sporting juggernaut. As a former athlete and someone who had prior associations with various sports organizations, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur brought a wealth of experience to his role, motivating the ministry to work more efficiently on sports-related issues.
Since the inception of Asian Games in 1951, India has come a long way. From securing a modest 51 medals in the inaugural Asian Games to consistently crossing the 100-medal mark, the journey has been nothing short of inspiring. The most recent Asian Games showcased India’s prowess across diverse disciplines. Our athletes particularly shone in shooting and athletics, amassing a considerable medal haul. Moreover, sports like equestrian, golf, archery, hockey, javelin throw, and long-distance running witnessed remarkable achievements. For the first time in history, India claimed a gold medal in cricket.
The achievements of our athletes, their stellar performances, and their global presence not only bring glory but also inspire success in other fields. Initiatives such as ‘Fit India’ and ‘Khelo India’ have ushered in a sporting revolution in India. The establishment of over 1000 new ‘Khelo India’ centers nationwide ensures that athletes receive comprehensive training, nurturing their development.
Over the past nine years, India’s sports budget has surged by almost 70%. Formerly, Indian athletes participated in fewer than 100 international events; today, over 300 Indian athletes partake in global competitions. India is steadily ascending as a sports superpower on the world stage, and the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister and continuous efforts of the Sports Ministry deserves credit for this transformation.
Dr. Piyush Jain is a member of the Governing Body of the
Sports Authority of India and the National Secretary of PEFI