One of the legends of Indian athletics, Anju Bobby George, believes that sports in India have come a long way since the time she used to compete.
Speaking during an Instagram Live session hosted by Sportskeeda, the bronze medallist at the 2003 World Athletics Championships said that athletes today have it easy when it comes to availing facilities and getting access to top-quality training and infrastructure relative to the time she was an active athlete.
“It’s a natural thing. But then every aspect of life has seen a change from the time I used to compete to the one we live in,” she said.
“But during the 2000s, we barely had any exposure to the international circuit or proper infrastructure to train. Even for the smallest of the needs, we had to struggle a lot. Be it upgrading our knowledge; it was not as easy as it is today. Things were very slow.”
Stressing on the change in the government’s outlook towards sports, the national record holder in long jump said that the Centre today understands and treats athletes like assets to the country. And all that one had to do is work on the craft and perform when it matters.
“Even when it comes to government support, it’s easily available today. Today, you have the government reaching out to you. If you are a good talent, the government is willing to take you under its wings and support your career,” she said.
Eye on the future
Spotting and nurturing talent at the grassroots level is another area that Anju Bobby George believed that India has been focusing on in the past few years.
Initiatives like Khelo India Youth Games and the National inter-district Junior Athletics meet, has seen the authorities spot talent at a young age and nurture it from thereon. However, she admitted that the results of this won’t be immediate.
“Actually, at the lowest level, talent is equal. We don’t see much of a difference when compared to an athletics powerhouse,” said the 43-year-old.
“The difference comes when we get to the training and other things that make an athlete. In other countries, talent scouting happens in a systematic way. That’s something we have lacked in India. But it’s changing now.
“Moreover, we are also educating the coaches. At the grassroots level, that’s one of the key aspects. You need to know how to work with a kid who’s coming into the sport.”
But despite such concentrated efforts, the Indian athletics great reckoned that it wouldn’t be wise to hope to see an Indian standing on the podium of a major event anytime soon.
“If you look at it, our junior team is doing really well. We have Neeraj (Chopra) who’s a junior world record holder. And then there’s Hima (Das) who’s a junior world champion. But there’s a big difference between the junior and senior level,” she said.
“If they are to do well, you need to provide them with that much training, support, coaching and confidence. Every aspect that goes into the making of an athlete shouldn’t be better, but the best. Then we can think of an Olympic medal or a Worlds medal,” she asserted.