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Why India needs more Karmakars than Tendulkars?

It was 1984, a sprinter from Kerala ran her heart out for the opportunity to become the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in track and field, yet missed it by one hundredth of a second.Yes, I am talking about PT Usha, the country’s most decorated female athlete to date and the first female sprinter in the country to gain spotlight.

Thirty-two years later followed a similar story,  23-year-old Dipa Karmakar from Tripura, in a sport where no Indian had hitherto ventured into, conquered our hearts and expectations. She became the first Indian gymnast to make it to the Olympics. This is more than a fairy tale to me considering a nation which still struggles to deal with female infanticide.

What was reminiscent about these two athletes from different timelines was a ‘fourth-place’ finish when it mattered the most. Yes, they couldn’t get the job done.

But, didn’t they not give their best or lacked the desire to win? ‘No!’

Any individual who watched them weave their magic and push themselves beyond limits knew that they scratched, clawed and did everything a human with unrivalled talent could do for that one moment, that one pinnacle, to bring pride and honour to their motherland, the nation widely criticized by its own citizens over the years to have not produced successful athletes, the nation obsessed with cricket.

For a country with a population of over 1.2 billion, could only manage 119 athletes to represent its honour. Yes, there is neither good infrastructure nor proper funding allocated by the government to develop the athletes but, the basic flaw begins from childhood where one is programmed to become an engineer or a chartered accountant. The male children, however, had the opportunity to play one sport and one sport only which is cricket, as the money, fame and the star-studded lifestyle involved are colossal, if one could make it to the top.

Parents need to give their children the freedom, utmost support and back them up beyond everything when one wants to become an archer or a cyclist or venture into any other sport. This is the first change that has to be inculcated to take this nation to the top of sports industry. Let your children fly sky high. Trust me, they’ll bring you galaxies because we Indians are that good to excel in everything once we set our goals.

The next change has to come from the Sports Ministry and the government who have been ruthlessly dispassionate in taking any step to give its athletes the right conditions to train. As a matter of fact, it’s easier to take an inspiration from the country’s own BCCI which happens to be wealthier that the International Cricket Council, taking a note of the type of infrastructure, opportunities and the financial backing it offers to the cricketers to train. A government job is the least important thing to many athletes when the basic amenities to train themselves still remain a big question.

If only the government hands them the right opportunities, conditions, and most needed financial backing to keep training, Indian athletes will be on top, competing shoulder to shoulder with the best of the best. It's high time we create a Tendulkar-esque figure in every other sport other than cricket alone so that we have myriad national heroes to worship, to carry us high, to keep inspiring the generations and show them the pride in representing the tri-colour. All we need is change, a change from within. Come on India! Let’s make Tokyo 2020 ours.

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