Does this name sound familiar to you?? Yes, I am talking about Budhia Singh whose name is recorded in Limca book of records in 2006 for a marathon run of 65 kilometers. Budhia Singh completed this distance in seven hours & two minutes at the age of just 4 years. He got the title for the youngest marathon runner.
Does anyone of us know where Budhia Singh is now? What is he doing now? Does he had a coach or preparing for Olympics? Let’s ask a different question to ourselves. What is our target for 2020 Olympics? Had we crossed checked on training and performance of our last game players?
This article contains two parts. One, about Budhia Singh and another about India’s Olympic records. Both are interrelated and can be used to find answers for India’s poor performance in sports. Definitely, cricket is excluded from sports, it is a religion.
Our apathy towards Junior athletes
The answer to above questions is most probably no. Last news on Google about Budhia is of August 2016, that’s too because a movie was released on his life in 2016. There is no news about him on Google between 2010 & 2016. From 2006 to 2010 he was continuously in news but not for his achievements. All these News were related to tragedies in his life. There was a sense of huge politics, greed to get fame and credit in all these news. BBC & HBO made a documentary on his life in 2011 and in 2016 Bollywood made a movie. But none was able to change his fate.
Budhia Singh story tells us, how we treat our junior sports players. How much difficult it is for an impoverished, lower cast family child from our social structure to fulfill his/her dreams? Even, if he/she have an extremely rare pool of talent. In India, facilities, recognition, and money come to athletes only when he/she achieve something big. we completely ignore our junior players. We only welcome finished products and ignore the process required to make a good quality product.
Budhia Singh Life as a unique Example of a Junior athlete in India
Soon after he became famous, he was separated from his coach Mr. Biranchi Das and a ban was put on him for running marathons. The reason given by authorities was “exploitation of his childhood”. He was sent to SAI(Sports Authority of India) sports hostel. And of course, it was government hostel. In the meantime, his coach was murdered by a local gangster in 2008. During his interviews at many times, he mentioned that the hostel has poor infrastructure, doesn’t provide proper diet and also there is no special coach for him. There is nothing strange in his claims even today. As these are the common and accepted things in all of the government facilities.
Actually, I would say he was quite lucky because of his sex. At least, he was not sexually harassed by sports authorities or coaches. We can find many such cases against female athletes especially junior ones. Here are some links for curious readers.
His last found interview was at the time of launch of his movie. Yes, of course, Media can dig out a dead man alive if he can get them some TRPs. Budhia was still alive so it was easier for them. During that interview, he told that he is not training for marathons & doesn’t even have a coach. Also, that he wants to run for Olympics. He returned to his home (Slum house actually) after 9 years stay at SAI sports hostel in 2016. According to a journalist at his Wikipedia page – “he is not in a state to win his school race now”.
Budhia Singh case shows the complete picture of politics, ignorance & apathy towards sports & sportspersons in our country. We don’t know how to create a sports person.
We shout only when we get only 1 Olympic Medal for 120 Crore Indians
Now think, if a naturally gifted player, an international sensation like Budhia gets such poor facilities, coaching; what an average child will get if he chooses sports as a career. The fact is we don’t have any system at the junior level to encourage our children’s towards sports.
Even if we talk about senior players, we don’t know the even easier task of how to nurture a natural talent. Only one Indian, “Sushil Kumar” so far has been able to win medals in two different Olympics in single athlete games. All of our Olympic medal winners fail to register a win in their next Olympic. Abhinav Bindra, Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore, Yogeshwar Dutt, Vijendra Kumar and the list goes on. Out of 30 Olympics, India had won a total of 26 medals, less than one medal per appearance. Here is the list of all Olympic medals. At least for once, these names deserve our attention.
Almost, every Indian was on fire when Shobhaa De commented on Indian Olympic team in 2016. She tweeted – “Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity”. Only Sakshi Malik was able to prove her wrong among the whole Olympic team which included last time Olympic winners also. She won a bronze medal.
The question here is why our sentiments get high only when we are inside the ring? Rest of the time we remain busy in our day to day life with our aims of making a prosperous living even if it involves corruption along with hypocrisy. We don’t deserve any right to blame the state or the athletes or the system because they represent us only. Therefore logically, when we abuse our system we abuse ourselves.
Small Simple Calculation
In 2016 Olympic games, Australia won 29 medals and ranked 10th, this was its lowest rank since 1992. Australia total population is around 25 crore and India’s 120 crores. But we cannot compare India with Australia because per capita income in Australia is higher than India. As per Credit Suisse global wealth estimate 2015, top 10% of India owns 65.9% of India’s wealth. Since the wealth of India is many times higher than that of Australia, these top 10% of Indian population i.e. 12 crore Indians have higher per capita Income than the average Australian have. These 12 crore Indians can spend much higher in training than an Australian. But still, these 12 crore Indians were not able to win not even 10% of what Australia had won.
We can do similar kind of comparison with many other European countries and even with Brazil or Russia. Russia had won 451 medals in just six appearances. Brazil had won 129 medals in 15 Olympic Games. Both these countries have similar per capita income as that of India.
Hard reality – Sports is not a profession in India
The truth is that sport is not a profession in India. For the upper middle class, it is a part of their luxury, they show no interest in sports as a career. In the middle class, it is just a fun activity in the present ecosystem & is very risky as a career in comparison to other available opportunities. And for lower middle or lower class, the sport is a dream to get out of poverty, though hard to achieve. They use sports to get an entry in government jobs or armed forces. They don’t dream for a win in Olympics. There are and will some exceptions who, choose sports as a career against all odds. From these few, only the lucky ones will be able to reach to their dreams because of the system we have.
Everyone who chooses sports as a career doesn’t make an international appearance, only a few reach to that point. How much an average national or domestic player earns? It is this question which acts as a barrier in choosing sports as a career. Though, recent commercialization has increased incentives for domestic players. It is still limited only to a few sports & needs expansion. Let’s say this expansion will surely take place sooner or later. We still left with a problem to solve, the problem of developing an ecosystem to nurture sportspersons. Commercialization will only increase incentives for players, to keep their spirits & passion high will still need our separate attention. We first need to develop an ecosystem in which sportsperson can be nurtured.
There is strong need to change our mindset towards sports. We will have to leave the notion of “Padhoge likhoge banoge nawab, Jo tum kheloge kudoge toh hoge kharab”. Unless, we do this, Olympic success will remain a distant dream.