Every new year brings with it fresh hopes, challenges and opportunities. The year 2018 promises to be a huge one for the Indian athletes with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games as well as the Junior World Championships lined up.
The seniors will be battling it out in the Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast in Australia in April while the Indonesian capital Jakarta will host the Asian Games in August-September.
Of these two, I expect the competition to be stiff in CWG, for the simple reason that there will be a number of European and African countries in the fray who can pose serious challenges to our athletes.
Traditionally, there has been very few number of medals won by India in athletics in CWG apart from the 2010 edition in New Delhi.
As far as the modern Asian Games are considered, India are a powerhouse in athletics. I have used the term 'modern' since countries from the Russian belt and more number of athletes from the Middle East region began competing in it from the 2002 edition in Busan only.
Neeraj Chopra in men's javelin and our 4x400m relay teams are expected to bring home the gold. Also, I am hopeful of us clinching medals in both men's and women's long jump events in addition to shot put as well as discus events.
I am refraining from tipping medal hopefuls in these events because the season has not started and most of these athletes are currently undergoing rigorous training for the mega event. But I am confident our athletics contingent will do the country proud in Jakarta.
Now, coming to the junior brigade, this year has in store plenty of opportunities for them. Apart from the Junior Worlds to be held in Finland in July, the Khelo India School Games set to begin in New Delhi on Wednesday promises to be a celebration of the youth.
I'm looking forward to intense competitions as apart from medals, there is the added bonanza of an annual scholarship of Rs 5 lakh for select athletes for a period of eight years. I am sure it will serve as a huge motivation for the youngsters do well. Also, we have the Khelo India College Games coming up.
Many often people ask me the question as to why our athletes fail to excel at the Olympics and World Championships. Let me repeat, the key to excellence is catch 'em young.
First and foremost, the parents have to let their children pursue their passion. Secondly, the talent scouts or those who spot young prospects have a huge role to play. I firmly believe in the age group competitions. One needs to look beyond just the first three spots. The reason being those with shorter muscles show immediate results while those with longer muscles need more time to produce results, but they are the ones who will last long.
So the point is to keep a close watch on the athletes and monitor and assess their reaction, attitude, physique and movement on a regular basis instead of blindly going by the results.
We need to make more use of the scientific methods to find out which athletes could go on to make it big from a young age and nurture them. We have to spot the true talents and provide the best of facilities and training to them in order to fight on level terms with the world's best.
Hopefully, the Khelo India projects will be just the start of it.
(The author is a former World Championships bronze medal winner in long jump)
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