Express News Service

BENGALURU: India returned with their best haul of seven Olympic medals from Tokyo and things are expected to get better in the future.  But, basking in that glory will not take the country anywhere. A lot needs to be done if the country aims to become a strong force in multi-sports events. Bengaluru-based Anju Bobby George, who won medals at big events, including bronze at 2003 World Championship in the high jump, touched upon various points — exposure for athletes, importance of coaches and why many juniors are not coming up to the senior level.


How can India’s medal haul in the Olympics be improved further?Our junior bunch makes up for good bench strength. Some of them can be in the next Olympics. They are growing up in a different world and system. Even if they want to go abroad for training, the system supports them, which is good for the future. There is no mental block. We go to compete now… it is not like we are just going and coming back. The support from SAI, Target Olympic Podium scheme (TOPs), Prime Minister and the sports ministry is immense.

You have competed at big world events. What do Indians lack?Athletes need to get more international exposure. What is needed is constant exposure — we are getting everything here in India, and training-wise, we are on par with other countries, but it is the exposure that is going to change our perspective towards bigger championships. That is what needs to be concentrated upon now.

How can talent be identified and nurtured from an early age?Identifying talent should be done in a scientific way and the coaches’ eye is very important. Coaches see things in a different way and their brain also is like a computer, which is tuned for that. Talent scouting is the first part and the second is nurturing them like a shell. Because of their age, you have to be careful with them. Also, they should not be overburned. At the same time, you need to get the best performance out of them. 

There are so many foreign coaches in India. Is there a dearth of Indian coaches?We have good coaches in India, but they need to do better and their knowledge needs to be upgraded all the time. In countries like Germany and the US, there is a lot of research happening in sports and they are way ahead of us.  The athlete is definitely a champion, but it is the coach who can produce multiple champions. Athletes are getting a lot of exposure, but most of the coaches are not getting that, so they are behind athletes. Coaches should be ahead of athletes, knowledge and experience-wise.

What are the biggest obstacles to a young athlete’s development?   At a young age, you have to be nurtured under a good coach. I faced such issues many times and ended up with injuries in my career. Most talented kids are stopping midway, either they are overburned or getting injured. There can be a lot of issues as they are young. That is one of the main reasons why many junior talents do not come up to the senior level. 

Only three Karnataka athletes represented India in Tokyo. What can be done to promote sports in the State?In Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru, there are many sporting academies. Our academy (Anju Bobby George Academy) too is here. Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence has good facilities. There are some good golf courses too here. The infrastructure is good, but I feel the government needs to pay more attention and support the athletes more.

Untrained people in Kambala races seem to have good physique and speed. Can they be trained to become professional athletes?First of all, that is a different sport altogether. Most of the time, it depends on the surface and other factors too. I think they are doing well in their field, just let them do that. Why do we need to force and drag them into other sports?