India’s Olympic connection dates back to 1900 when there was only one athlete to represent India at the world stage – Norman Pritchard – who eventually went on to win a silver medal in Men’s 200m event. Soon it was our Hockey team that made their way to glory with the first Gold Medal in 1928 Olympics. And since then it was no turning back for the men in blue, the team went on to win 5 gold medals consecutively at the event. As the country developed and infrastructure improved, India saw a lot of athletes participating and winning. Some of the great athletes like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Leander Paes, Karnam Malleswari, Sushil Kumar, Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal to name a few have won a lot of praise and accolades at the world stage. With all the above names, there’s one thing that I would like to point out. Did you notice that none of the names mentioned above play the sport of Athletics ? In fact India’s track record in the field events have been largely poor. Ever wondered why ? This is largely due to the lack of infrastructure – improper tracks, inadequate training facilities and less importance of the sport in my view are posing a threat. And to overcome these roadblocks, GAIL (India) Limited joined hands with the National Yuva Cooperative Society (NYCS) and launched a grassroots athletics program GAIL Indian Speed Star.
The GAIL Indian Speed Star is aimed at young athletes mainly in the age group of 11 – 17. The program will help in identifying, selection and nurturing the young legs and harness their hidden talent in various track events including the 100m sprint, 200m and 800m. Eminent sports persons like P.T Usha, Rachita Mistry, Anuradha Biswal and Kavita Raut have been roped in the selection committee to support selections and guide coaching camps. One of the great things about the program is that with the vast experience among the members of the committee, they can come up with the perfect training plan and selection criteria required to select the best of the best and bring them to the world stage.With such talent in the selection committee, the GAIL Indian Speed Star program will surely help and nurture the young talent.
Since its inception in March 2016, the GAIL Indian Speed Star program has already started it operations all over the country. They have conducted trials at district levels in various parts of India. The trails were conducted in 55 districts spread over 10 states from which about 850 young athletes dodged the hurdles and reached the state level selections. Under the watchful eyes of the selectors and in the presence of Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, MOS – Petroleum and Natural Gas, the program has selected 14 young and agile runners to participate at the national levels. There are a lot of camps organized regularly to find the perfect candidate from the huge pool of athlete reserve India has. The GAIL Indian Speed Star is one of its kind program that will help fulfill the dreams of many children who have the talent but lack the right training and financial aid required to nurture it.
One of the main key motive of the GAIL Indian Speed Star program is to find the best talent in field of athletics who will represent India at the 2020/2024 Olympics. This is an ambitious plan and is highly achievable considering the potential of the young Indian athletes coupled with the experience of the senior pros. The path to glory would start with the athletes clearing the state trials, post which they will attend an ‘intensive’ national level camp. Upon the completion of the camp, the final set of trials will conducted and 9 athletes will be selected and provided world-class training and support for over a period of 5 years with an eye at the Olympics.
In a country obsessed with Cricket, other sports often take a back seat and unfortunately Athletics is a highly neglected sport in India. With the GAIL Indian Speed Star program, we hope for revival of Athletics. It’s a boon for young athletes who have the right mix of talent and passion for making it to the big stage. With a great panel of sportsmen and ample time on hand, we all are looking forward to see the next heart-throb of Indian Athletics at the Olympics.
Go, Fight, Win !
To know more about this wonderful initiative, check out their Facebook page.
Below are the experiences of some of the participants.