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There is hardly any understanding of sport among people in India: Rijiju

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday rued that people in India, including some of his colleagues in Parliament, have limited understanding of sports and emphasised on the need to create a sports culture in the country.

Rijijiu was amazed that his colleagues felt that people like Jyoti Kumari, Kambala jockey Srinivas Gowda and Rameshwar Gurjar – who became social media sensation – were Olympic prospects.

Jyoti Kumari had cycled down from Gurugram to Bihar, carrying her ailing father amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Karnataka’s Gowda was claimed to have run 100m in about 11 seconds.

“Knowledge in Indian society about sports is very minimum. I don’t want to degrade my own colleagues but even in Parliament there is no knowledge,” Rijiju said during the online launch of High Performance leadership programme organised by ELMS Sports Foundation and Abhinav Bindra Foundation.

“Everybody knows about cricket, the English people have put that in our mind. They play the game and we had to beat them. But other than that, there is no knowledge, all just want gold medal.”

In May, the 15-year-old Kumari hit national headlines after she cycled down 1200 km from Gurugram to her native place in Bihar in eight days with her father. She was offered a trial by the Cycling Federation of India, which she turned down.

Talking about Kumari, Rijiju said: “There was this young girl who under very difficult circumstances during this COVID-19 pandemic carried her father on a cycle from Gurgaon to Bihar. It was a tragic thing but imagine some of my colleagues said she will bring gold medal for India in cycling.”

“See how lack of knowledge makes people think like this, without knowing what are the formats of cycling and what standards you have to reach to win gold medal in Olympics, just pouring of information will not do.”

Earlier, Gowda and Madhya Pradesh’s Gurjar also became social media sensations for their running exploits in the slushy and dusty fields and were eventually called for trials.

Gowda was believed to have completed 100m sprints in about 11 seconds and was dubbed by some in social media as the next Usain Bolt, the Jamaican multiple Olympic gold medallist sprinter.

“There was also a case in Karnataka, a bullock cart running competitions where there was somebody called Srinivas. For a better traction so that people don’t feel we are not aware of the situation, our SAI people had invited him,” Rijiju said.

“… I was told he was not fit for a world class sprinter but that is not important. People started saying that we have got a man who is faster than Olympic champion Usain Bolt. We have to identify talent but look at the lack of knowledge, people don’t know.”

He also stressed on the lack of sports culture in the country, saying there is a need to change the entire sporting atmosphere to ensure that India win more gold medals at the Olympics.

“What was bothering me all these years is why we are not able to create a sport culture in India. Abhinav Bindra got the gold at Beijing. In Moscow, our Indian men’s hockey team won a gold medal. It generates celebration but there is no collective effort to have more such momentous occasions,” he said.

“India definitely has a sporting tradition but unfortunately we don’t have a sports culture. It has been so many years since Bindra got the gold. Fortunately since 1996 Olympics we have not drawn a blank in medal tally but it is not a good sight for a country of India’s size.”

“We have to change the entire atmosphere in the country to ensure that such moments come more often. We can’t afford to have just one or two icons, to be celebrating one or two medals.”

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