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India aiming to be sporting power in CWG
New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS):
Published on 11 Oct. 2009 10:24 PM IST
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Even as the 2010 Commonwealth Games buzz is on India's infrastructural preparedness, a million-dollar programme has been quietly training away athletes to make the country a sporting power. At the last edition of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne three years ago, India's medal count was 50, including 22 gold, and they were placed fourth behind Australia, England and Canada, as they were at the previous Games in Manchester. At the 2010 Games, though, the stakes will be much higher as India aims to host the Asian Games and then the Olympics in the next decade or so. And much will depend on how well it fares organisationally and, importantly, how close could it get to Asia's sporting giants China and Korea by spreading their medals across the 17 disciplines at next year's Games. The government, not surprisingly, woke up late to realise the preparation of athletes is vital and a whopping Rs.6.78 billion was earmarked for their training - a windfall for them, considering they had been managing with a pittance. A set of 'core probables' were selected in each discipline last year and they have been undergoing intensive training-cum-competition both at home and overseas. A total of 424 athletes will represent India in the 18 disciplines, but three times that number - 1,286 to be precise - make up the core group. The national sports federations have charted out extensive training programmes for two years and, for once, the athletes and officials are not complaining. Though there were teething troubles, things got sorted out and with a year to go all training programmes are in full swing. Officials of three disciplines which are expected to fetch a lot of medals -- table tennis, shooting and tennis -- are happy with preparations. "The training for the CWG is going smoothly. There are no usual hiccups," says Dhanraj Choudhary, who took over as secretary in-charge of Table Tennis Federation of India after the demise of long-standing secretary general Mool Chand Chowhan last month. "For over a year now the table tennis players have received training and played in competitions overseas as planned. The government has been very prompt in clearing the trips and money. There is little red tape thanks to a single-window clearance. Once the Games steering committee clears a proposal, the rest of the things fall in place automatically," Choudhary says. Table tennis was one sport that performed exceptionally well at Melbourne, winning the men's team gold, men's singles gold, thanks to Achanta Sharath Kamal, and the women's team bronze for the first time. "I am confident that we will be able to improve on our performance. In the Commonwealth Championship in May in Glasgow we won seven medals, four more than in the previous edition. It only shows that our performance graph internationally is going up." India is looking for a bagful of medals from the shooting range as the country is emerging as a major force in the sport. In the previous edition, shooters accounted for more than half of India's medals tally -- 27, including 16 gold. The shooters have always complained of inadequate facilities, particularly ammunition not reaching them in time. National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary general Baljeet Singh Sethi says things have been sorted out and there are no problems now. "Things are looking up at this point. We are getting the money on time. There is no problem with the ammunition as well." "With the home advantage, we should be improving our gold tally. "After the nationals in November, a new core group would be formed. This year only the trap shooters went overseas, to Italy, but before every World Cup the shooters played in practice tournaments overseas. Gagan Narang was given a special permission to go to Germany," says Sethi. India would also be looking up to tennis for a handful of medals. "We have chalked out 305 days of Commonwealth training for the players, spending 75 days overseas playing tournaments," says chief coach and the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Preparatory Committee Jaidip Mukerjea. The 40 probables were sent for a month's training to the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in the US earlier this year. "We are happy with our preparations. The players are in good shape," says Mukerjea, a former Davis Cup captain. Mukerjea said the All India Tennis Association (AITA) is now proposing to increase the foreign exposure trips of Somdev Devvarman, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to 150 days.

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