Veturi Srivatsa column on Acche Din for Sport

Veturi Srivatsa says sportspersons should at least see acche din! 

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medal winners in wrestling and Judoka Babita and Vinesh in Gurgoan
Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medal winners in wrestling and Judoka Babita and Vinesh in Gurgoan

Most well to do sportspersons complain of the lack of state patronage and insist they got to the top on their own. It is not all true, even those who can afford a holiday in the Swiss Alps are not graceful to acknowledge the amount of help they receive from the government for their training overseas.
The articulate among the sportspersons have unfairly been critical of the government even after enjoying all facilities. In the last decade or so, the government opened its purse strings to help talented sportspersons, allowing them to train wherever they wanted and even provided them the equipment.
There has been an even spread with more and more sports disciplines getting good sums of money.
Being professionals even sportspersons are determined to compete with the world’s best, even though there is no end to encouraging the deserving in a vast country like ours.
Look at the number of public sector undertakings like the oil companies recruiting talented sportspersons. For instance, applicants for jobs in Reserve Bank of India need not be internationals, even a state or district-level achievers will do.
Shooter Jitu Rai will be the first to admit that his employers, the Indian Army, gave him all the encouragement by way of equipment and facilities. The Incheon Asian Games gold medallist in 50m free pistol is so modest that he might still say that he neither changed his equipment nor his technique, it’s just that everything clicked in the last couple of months.
Clear in his thought and goal, Rai simply said that he worked hard for this gold and it’s great to have fulfilled his ambition. For good measure he added he will be starting at zero 24 hours later when he returns to the range for his 10m air pistol event.
Suddenly, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has at last realised that Rai is Lucknow-based and he quickly announced Rs.50 lakh cash reward. If only these political doles are given when the sportspersons’ talent was recognised, the money would help them to prepare better without scrounging for resources.
The Nepal-born Rai, a Naib Subedar with the Gorkha Regiment, is lucky he has the Army power behind him. He showed exemplary commitment and willpower when he fired his last shot trailing Vietnam’s Hoang Nhuyen by 0.2 points.
When the two looked at the bull’s eye for the medal shot, the Vietnamese was gripped by nerves and he could only score 5.8. Rai coolly took the aim with his master right eye and the next thing one saw was 8.4 going up on the board. Imagine, the reigning World and Olympic champion Korea’s Jin Jong-Oh finished seventh and the better-known Chinese also fell by the wayside.
Rai’s performance in the last one year is a tribute to his temperament. His last six appearances in major international events fetched him either gold or silver medals!
Rai, 27, is the World No.1 in 10m air pistol rankings. Though Anjali Bhagwat, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Gagan narang, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Ronjon Sodhi and Heena Sidhu have also been World No.1 in their respective events, Rai has proved that it was no fluke or just one of those things with his recent performances.
Hopefully, Rai doesn’t have to serve an ultimatum to the Army for an out-of-turn promotion like another Army shooter Vijay Kumar did to continue in the force after winning the Olympic silver.
Rai was also cut up with the Uttar Pradesh government when it failed to recognise his Commonwealth Games gold and did not announce any reward. He even produced documents to prove that he has been in living in Lucknow for long.
The sports ministry is still considering how to improve upon the monetary rewards instituted by the previous UPA government. The minister’s stock reply is that the work is in progress!
As it is, Olympic gold medal winner will get Rs.50 lakh, silver Rs.30 lakh and bronze Rs.20 lakh.
For the Asian and Commonwealth games, the amounts are drastically reduced to Rs.20 lakh, Rs.10 lakh and Rs.6 lakh for gold, silver and bronze respectively. For World Championships in the disciplines included in multi-discipline games, it is just Rs.10 lakh, Rs.5 lakh and Rs.3 lakh!
Some of the states are honouring their sportspersons with 10 times more in crores. There should be a uniform policy when it comes to rewarding sportspersons so that there is no heart burn.

At least for sportspersons should see acche din.