Editorial – Sparkling Performance

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Manipur sportsmen and women have done the state proud again, finishing second in the medals tally behind Services in the just concluded National Games at Jharkhand. The Services are the combined strength of the Indian security forces and belong in that sense to all the Indian states so in effect it can be said that Manipur finished top of the medals table if the competition were to be between states only. Again, it is also learnt that many of the medal winners representing other states were sportspersons from the state. They competed for other states on account of their studying or working in these states or else opting to represent them as they were nipped in the competition to represent Manipur by sporting compatriots. Manipur’s feat is nothing to trifle. It is a wonder that an impoverished state like Manipur which lacks modern infrastructure to groom sports achievers of the kind it has been producing consistently year after year, generation after generation, beating much bigger and richer states. Our sportspersons are there not because of state patronage, but despite the absence of it. They are in short the product of sheer determination and perseverance. Amidst all the news of blood and gore, violence and counter-violence that the state has come to be associated with, it is heartening to see a different and very positive image of the state being projected before the world by our sportsmen and women. The whole state owes its gratitude to them for the goodwill they have brought for the state. This notwithstanding, the state, and more importantly the government, needs to be wary lest the standard of sportsmanship the state has been able to maintain does not sustain. Especially in the Imphal area, many of the playfields which once were teeming with life every afternoon after school and college are today deserted most of the time. There seems to be a slump in the general enthusiasm for games and sports all around. Much of the steam has also now been weaned away to the fun sports of Yaoshang (Holi) which have now become an annual tradition. While there can be no objections to these fun sports, this cannot be at the cost of dedication to the competitive variety of Olympics sports. Enthusiasm for the two must run parallel to each other, with neither encroaching on the territory of the other. The idle playfields must be made to come alive again. The more the grooming grounds for sportsmen and women there are in the state, the more sustainable it would be for the state to be a sports powerhouse of the country that it has been year after year. There is another weak point noticed of the Manipur contingent this time as in past years for quite some time now. There were practically no medals won from the track and field events. In short, while sportspersons from the state are good at indoor and team sports, they have not impressed on what are considered as the mother of all sports – athletics, with the exception perhaps of cycling. This is an area that sports planners in the state needs to look into seriously. If athletes of the state do not have the physique suited for sprints and throws, there is no reason they cannot do well in the mid and longer distance running. Manipur in the past have done well in the various marathons organised across the country showing the potential it has to produce good endurance athletes. Why has no effort been made to actualise this potential to the best benefit? Obvious there is something missing. A few years ago, there used to be many high profile marathons and half-marathons organised in the state by different organisations round the year. Today these are become increasingly distant memories. Manipur once used to have a State Games in which different sporting clubs competed in different Olympics events. This tradition too has tragically died out. The Manipur government’s sport authorities must make efforts to revive it. Similar competition would normally be expected at the inter-school and inter-college levels, but these too have failed to take off. Here too something needs to be done urgently if sporting excellence is what the state wants.

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