Building India’s road from schools to Olympics

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When Neeraj Chopra won the javelin throw gold medal at Tokyo Olympics 2020, he created history by being the first ever Indian track and field athlete to do so.

After 12 long years, India’s medal tally wasn’t barren in the gold column. But a medal that was so big for India was apparently quite small if you looked at the bigger picture.

The best performer of Tokyo Olympics, United States of America, had won 113 medals including 39 golden ones. A total of 42 countries – including a country as small as Qatar – had won at least two golds. With regard to total medals, India stood 48th in the list of 93 countries. How did a country of more than one billion hopes and dreams fall behind, you ask? The answer to this question lies way behind an event of the grown-ups.

Rishikesh Joshi, co-founder of Sports for All (SFA) told UNI, “India’s problem is that we are a population of over one billion but we don’t win enough medals in Olympics. If we have to solve this problem, we need to go to the bottom layer. We need to create a serious environment for school sports.”

Rishikesh said one of the reasons why India fails to perform big at the Olympics is not having a culture of sports for children. Shedding light on the same and SFA’s work, Rishikesh added, “When me and Vishwas (Vishwas Choksi, co-founder, SFA) started playing cricket on school level, over a period of time we experienced that international sports changed a lot. Despite new techniques arriving, school sports in India didn’t change much. So, we discussed how we can radicalize school sports and give the same facilities to school kids that international athletes have.”

Thus, with the motive of ‘radicalizing school sports’, Rishikesh and Vishwas founded Sports for All, India’s largest multi-sport school championship.

“After thorough deliberation, we decided to establish SFA. Schools these days don’t know what they have. We realised that if we start an Olympic style event for schools, we can bring a lot of talent together,” added Rishikesh.

Vishwas told UNI that the SFA championship is currently being organised in four cities. About 15000 kids from 500 schools come together to compete in one such championship.

“It is infact bigger than the Olympics. One SFA championship sees about 15000 participants, where as Olympics is attended by about 11000 athletes,” commented Vishwas.

SFA’s aim is to create a culture which churns out talent that can represent India and win on the biggest stage. To achieve this, SFA is planning to spread its arms all across India.

Talking about the same, Rishikesh said, “We are planning to reach 50 cities by 2028. We have to

find India’s best school for every sport as well, so we can find the best talent and make the best platform to churn out athletes. If two lakh kids come on the same platform, it will be an asset for

India. If you look at the United States, They have college championships (National College Athletics Association Championships). We want the same for Indian schools and give Olympic athletes from SFA.”

Athletics going big on Data although preparing world class athletes all over India is easier said than done. Rishikesh underlines the fact that the Indian athlete’s body is different.

Rishikesh, biggest thing in this is that the Indian athlete’s body is different, but the bigger problem for an athlete is not knowing which sport suits his body type. The solution to this problem, Rishikesh says, is Data.

Rishikesh said, “We don’t have a sporting culture on grassroot level. Most kids play only one sport. We need a multisport culture to develop our children to develop their psychic and physicality.”

“That’s what is happening in education. We expose the child to all streams and when he matures, we let him choose a specialization. This needs to be done in sports too. We made a multisport platform for the same reason. A kid will play all sports for a certain number of years and then conclude what his body type is.”

“Data analytics plays a big part in it. Kids won’t know (which sport to choose) until we guide them. We want to give multisport exposure to a child and through data analytics we will bring out the right talent for the right sport,” added Rishikesh.

SFA believes that not only Data analytics will help a child choose the right sport, it will also help them improve at it. Vishwas said in the next five years, they will have enought data to see which city specializes at a certain sport. A culture that continuously focuses on improving itself, will hopefully thrive at the bigger stage.

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