Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reality Bites!

Talking to a few friends the other day they brought up the subject of the government and their system of "priority sport" status. The whole concept and way it works is asinine (to put it mildly).
They don't follow any logical benchmarks and criteria and they only look at medals in various events. So if you win a couple of medals here and there you get this status and supposedly a huge influx of funds. The fact that all the "priority" sports don't exactly dominate on the world circuit with maybe the exception of shooting. A good example being tennis, it is a priority sport and we only have 3 decent players. It gets me back to the whole point of how as a country we have no vision and are so stuck up in the present and mostly past.
Also it is not that the life of the athletes in "priority" sports is great altered and they get some unbelievable opportunities. So what is the point? I agree that funding should be incentive based and sports doing well in the international arena should get some breaks but hey is someone really watching and seeing what is really going on? My guess is they are not and just reading the box scores doesn't really give you the exact picture.
Another valid point being... shouldn't the sports where we are absolutely nowhere like a gymnastics, swimming etc etc get more money to actually develop the sport and make a start? Or should they also wait till they get one bright flash in the pan and ride his/her back to "priority status"????

Leave for Munich tomorrow night... have a jam packed schedule with shooting, facilities, more shooting and back...
I am sorry to subject the non shooting fans to more allusions since i am sure the next few entries will either directly relate to shooting or have shooting undertones.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pattiala Part II

Back to the last week end where i boarded a flight to Delhi around 10 hours after i had landed from the US to go and conduct some tests on our athletes. I had spoken about what needed to be done and since in the summer in the US a lot of the coaches have time on their hands so thought i shouldn't waste any time and choose some athletes to send there. Of course there is no co operation from any front and it is mind boggling to see how incompetent everyone really is. I was told that there would be around 8-10 girls there and so i began my journey...
On the track at 6:30am i could only find 3 girls and around the same number of boys along with about 5 coaches. Luckily i had a friend with me so at least someone was on my side because the coaches were all whispering and speaking different languages and it was pretty apparent who their comments were directed at.
The three girls tested were decent and fit most of the required parameters with one of them fulfilling all the requirements. The guys were a disaster!!! They almost have the same times as the women and it is appalling to see such a disparity in quality... Do we just not have good male athletes? Is there no base for any sort of development whatsoever.... what was even more disappointing was the fact that the tests that i did are not event specific but instead just to showcase if you are a decent athlete or not...
Anyway my trip wasn't fully wasted since one of our athletes Abhinav Bindra lives there and i took him up on an offer to get a shooting lesson.
The 10m Air Rifle that is the event of choice for Mr. Bindra and when i was first trying to learn the sport he told me not to go and watch because he said it would be more exciting "to watch paint dry." Of course i didn't heed and delved into watching as much as i could and yes i can see how people could find it "boring." The thing that made me so intrigued was what exactly possessed people to take up this sport and what motivated them to shoot at a little black dot 10m away all day long 24/7/365.
So here was my opportunity and anyone who knows the sport will tell you that i was getting a lesson from one of the top authorities in the sport. So we started off first shooting off a table, then shooting off a stand and then finally working on the right form. It is the weirdest thing but you get this "great" feeling when you are looking through the sights and you shoot a good shot. It is hard to explain and i never understood it when the shooters would all tell me but it is that feeling that you get for 1/millionth of a split second that urges you on to try it again and again and again...
So 6 hours later and one lunch in between we were still at Abhinav's range with him patiently standing behind me correcting every mistake and adjusting my equipment. Even after i was done i was thinking about getting that ever elusive "10" so much so that i got up early the next morning before we were to leave and squeezed in a quick shooting session.
The one revelation i did have (other than getting my 10 on my 37th shot of the morning) was that it was easy to see why Abhinav was the best in the world. It is very rare and heartening to see people so committed and passionate about their sport that the highlight of their day is just to get an opportunity to hold the gun.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Show Me the Money!!!!!

Was in Patiala/Chandigarh the last three days and i guess words like dissapointing, uninspiring, disenchanting, dillusional all would perfectly describe the outing. But i will rave and rant about that later on in the week. There were some bright spots but today i want to focus on one of the brightest spot hitting Indian Tennis. Apollo Tires yesterday announced they are investing 100 crores into Indian tennis for the next ten years.
Mahesh Bhupathi (one of my closest buddies) initiated the deal. I maybe a bit biased towards him but the bottom line is that he has brought in more money (his magic number being 140 crores combining the Mittal Trust and FIST) to Indian sport as a whole than any other human being EVER!!!! Of course his exploits on the tennis court are great but this is so much bigger here is a guy who is proving not to only to be a great athlete but an even better human being. He has single handedly raised money for Indian sport with absolutely no vested interest other than seeing his country move up in the world. Not so long ago this same guy was accused as being non patriotic which is hilarious since here is a guy who has redifined the termed "giving back"!!!!
Anyway for all those who only thought that it was a lack of money that kept us in the doldrums its time to pull your socks up and deliver since the money is coming so now lets get some results going.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wide world of Athletics.

Let me start by apologizing for long gap... there are way too many reasons (some personal) for why i haven't had a chance to update the blog.
Am presently in Knoxville, Tennessee (USA) for some meetings with coaches and in particular the head coach of the Track&Field who has produced 7 Olympic medals in the last two games.
Just to summarize my last week or so I have been from Ottawa, Toronto, Cincinnati and now Knoxville (which is my last stop thank god) in search of an athletic program that will agree to take on some Indian athletes.
Our athletes are decent at junior levels but just like most other sports they don't get the right development and push to the next stage. Have met various coaches who feel that they can take up the challenge. It is so refreshing meeting people here to are so ambitious and even coaches who are in charge of development and coach young kids do their job with so much pride.
I am of the feeling that i would like to base the athletes outside India only because peripherals like nutrition, strength, rehab will get taken care of. This is an area we don't even address at home and it shows.
In Knoxville, the coach here has given me a test that he has devised which he says gives a 99% idea whether an athlete has a chance or not. He specializes only in the 400 and 800 which also seem to be where a bulk of our athletes seem to be. After the fitness test, there is a medical test which is only done in 3 places here that measures the amount of "fast twitch" muscle fibres and compares it to what you need. So it is a pretty fool proof... except that after an athlete passes these two tests, the mental aspect and desire which will come into play.
However am excited at doing these tests, from what i can see of it already the coach said i would be lucky if i found 3-4 people. Anyway headed back to India tomorrow and will keep all posted on the test front....

Monday, May 7, 2007

Back from Bangkok

No idea for some reason the last two posts didn't publish. Well in a nutshell the women were a disappointment and not much to even write about other than maybe Avneet who shot MQS so not much pressure.
There are only two more chances for an Olympic Quota which is Munich starting the 28th and then the Asian Championships later on in the year. Anyway there will be more shooting for me at the beginning of next month since i thought i would go and check out my shot gun athletes as well.
Off to Toronto tonight to try and find an athletic base to send some of our talented athletes and also various testing and fitness facilities. So more on that later.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Today's events were the Men's 10m Air rifle and women's 10m Air Pistol. Few Indians were in action, and from the "Trust's" point of view notably Abhinav Bindra.
The day started at 6am which is when he left for the range. By the time i got there at 7.30am all were standing on the firing line ready to go... and it all began at 8am.
For those who have never been to an Air rifle match (that will be a lot of you) imagine being in a movie hall with deafening volumes of the dolby surround soud system, then imagine the plug being pulled on the system and that sudden silence where you can even hear the seats breathing... now throw in the popcorn machine making the noise it does.... that is the feeling you get in an Air Rifle match arena.
Now the format...there are 2 groups of 55 shooters who shoot one after the other and the top 8 make the final. We had Gagan and Abhinav shooting in the first group followed by Raghu and S. Rajput in the second. Each shooter shoots 6 rounds of 10 shots each.
It wasn't an ideal start for Abhinav shooting a 98 (which is 8 of 10), followed by another 98 and for those of you referencing with Kamesh he will tell you that is not the best of starts. It looked like Abhinav was in a bad mood and basically very unhappy.... he later told me that is how he is all the time. Anyway he then shot a 100,100,100 and 99, which gave him a final score of 595. He managed to be second out of the group but still had to see how the other group scored to know if he would make the final.
He described his performance as sheer determination and power that got him through and said it was more a boxing match than a shooting one. He was having a horrendous day and it was only his strong mind that got him through.
The other group started right after and i can't give you any details since i wasn't really watching but when the dust settled India had two people in the final, Abhinav and Rajput. So that was heartening....
Going into the final (which is 10 shots on command) Abhinav and the other Indian faltered out of the start which quickly took them out of medal contention. Abhinav managed to recover at the end with a 10.8 which was a good finish to the tournament. I think he finished 7th but on the whole a remarkable performance after a 6 month lay off and only his third tournament back.
It is very clear to see why he is such a champion and so well regarded, his attention to detail concerning his sport is phenomenal. He is very clear with not only his goal but also the road he wants to take to the goal. It is one step at a time with each step being ahead of the last and they are all leading to the top of the podium at the Olympics....

Now off to dinner, followed by tomorrow which will be the girls day out... Women's Air Rifle starts at 9am with Suma, Avneet and Anjali in action. Lets hope we can bring home some silverware...

Friday, May 4, 2007


Greetings from Bangkok.... its been a long day so will try to keep this succinct and to the point... got here from Bombay at 6am and before i could put my bags down i got a call from Abhinav who was already up and heading to the gym so i decided that i had to also pretend to kind of be an athlete and so i joined him.
After a shower and food we headed to the range, Abhinav had official practice at 1pm and i was perplexed at why we were heading there at 10am but i decided not to argue. The whole Indian contingent was there and it was good to catch up with everyone. The air rifle and pistol contingent comprises of around 50 people and they have been on the road for the last two months so there is no dearth of good gossip. Of course there are those usual stories of people not having seen three of the five coaches ever since they have reached bangkok but being Indian would we expect any different?? Then there are juicier ones that i (as much as i want to) can't really write about but my point being that it was good.
While all this was going on Abhinav of course was not around he had gone to the armory to get his weapons and was sitting behind his shooting point, i assumed he was focusing so didn't interfere.... then after a while he changed into his shooting clothes (better described as armor) and at around 12.30 was standing at his place aiming at his target but not shooting... there were about 30 others doing the same thing so i didn't think it was too odd. Then as soon as the digital clock showed 1:00pm there was this cacophony of gun fire... it sounded like hail on a tin roof and i jumped since i was still busy shooting the breeze with Suma and didn't expect it.
Exactly 23 minutes later, Abhinav packed up his gun got out of his clothes, went dropped off his gun and we was ready to get out of there. So we went there 2 hours early just to prepare to shoot for 23 mins... Amazing....
So in the next ten mins we were on our way back to the hotel, where we went back to the gym, and then headed to re-fuel our stomachs.
The thing I found odd was that its only Abhinav staying in this hotel. He does his own practice, he makes his own schedules, he does his own fitness and there is no one around. Not anyone of his "team" mates, no coaches... i know he probably likes it this way but it is a great reminder of even though it is a team event it is still very individual.
So tomorrow being the Men's 10M event... we are all off to bed early... all the action begins at 6am (that is the time he is leaving for competition preparations) tomorrow so can't wait to actually be a part of it. The atmosphere at a sporting event is something hard to describe it is unbelievable and watching any sport live is a thrill which no sports lover should pass on....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Shooting in Bangkok

Alot of people keep asking me why i have to travel the way i do and what i actually do when i go on trips. So i am leaving for Bangkok tonight for the shooting World Cup and will be doing a daily diary situation to give people a better understanding of not only what i do but also of what the shooters really do. I know shooting is not exactly a great spectator sport but still something we are really good at. It is the only sport where we have two World Champions in the same year and have around 6 top ten shooters in the world. It is also a learning experience for myself since it is the first time i will be seeing the shooters in action. I watched shooting in Doha also but was too "green" to know exactly what was going on. I will be also giving my readers (all 2 of them) a behind the scenes insight :) For all technical questions please try and reach Kamesh who in my mind is a authority on the air rifle and pistol events. For those of you who don't know Kamesh... he writes for the Hindu and can be reached on kameshshrinivasan@hotmail.com. He doesn't know i am throwing his name out there but am sure he would be happy to help those with queries :)
So back to the event, it is the 3rd World Cup in the shooting calendar and all our air rifle and pistol shooters will be in action. We haven't had a great season with only one person securing a quota place. Abhinav Bindra also coming off a long lay off will be in action and i am excited at watching him after months of dissecting the sport through long phone conversations. For those not really interested in the sport, this is going to be a boring read for the next week or so.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Time to Introspect

Sports in India is a 1500 crore industry... of which 1499 crores goes to cricket. It is a sad statistic but true. We have various sport management groups cropping up all over the country to try their hand in managing athletes but finding these athletes is turning out to be a tall task. The truth is there are none..... Why?
Well a not so anonymous reader of my blog has been commenting on how the domestic circuits in all sports need to be revamped with more people playing to be able to find eventual champions. I couldn't agree with that more. The truth is to be able to get thousands of people playing at all levels and have a competitive domestic circuit is the only way to "breed" future champs.
The last year has given me the opportunity to delve into the various sports in India and from what i have seen the sports we are the closest to an Olympic medal are Archery, Shooting and Boxing. Incidentally, these are also the sports where the domestic circuit is the strongest. Our archers come from below the poverty line and so all their major competitions are national ones. The Archery Association has done a phenomenal job in keeping its circuit of National ranking and prize money tournaments hence there is a lot of depth. Other than Korea we are the only nation who have full time archers and it is now just a matter of fine tuning these athletes to be able to compete at the international stage.
Boxing is similar since most of the pugilists are from rural backgrounds. Haryana has done a great job garnering and nurturing talent and there are around 2000 boxers coming out of that state alone. They to function on a strong domestic schedule and the best boxers are constantly participating in different events around the country.
The shooters also participate in a lot of domestic events, that is a bit skewed because they are forced to participate since only the top 20 shooters can acquire a gun licence. This is a good ploy which forces internal competition which is essential before the kids can compete internationally.
I think all associations should take a look and really set up a great domestic circuit before bidding to host various international tournaments. It is great to host these big time events but not at the cost of national tournaments.
It is the only way we will be able to consistently churn out winners and the Mittal Champions Trust is going to look to support long term sustainable circuits that will be able to eventually sustain themselves.