Sporting Challenges

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The recently concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games once again established beyond doubt the sporting prowess of Manipur. Athletes from the State won one gold and four silvers, doing the State and the country proud. All the medals were from mainstream Olympic sports disciplines, namely weightlifting, boxing, judo and hockey. Our congratulations go out to all of the winners, as well as to the other members of the 14 strong contingent of sportspersons from the State who participated although did not manage to come home with a medal. The very fact that they were selected as the cream in their different disciplines to represent a country of a billion and more people is in itself a big achievement. Moreover, if there is anything of the traditional and beautiful description of the Olympics spirit left in sportsmanship, the glory of sports is in the participation not in the winning. A lot has quite unfortunately changed in the competitive scenario of the modern times, increasingly determined by the new culture of consumerist commerce and advertisement, and like in all other fields, in sports too nothing else is beginning to matter except winning. This, we suppose is the brave new world of sports (or “grave new world” if you like, to borrow Aldus Huxley’s rather cynical twist of the phrase), that the new generation of sportspersons have no choice but to imbibe. The Asian Games are round the corner, all of them, and probably some more as there would be more sporting disciplines in these games, will have the opportunity to prove themselves again. The competition this time would be much stiffer in many, indeed most of the disciplines, judo and weightlifting in particular, with the entry of some sports powerhouses of East Asia and many Central Asian splinter countries of the former USSR. Our best wishes nonetheless go out to all of our sportspersons.

In boxing, where pugilists from Manipur put up a sterling performance at Glasgow, bringing back two silvers, the standard of competition would be more or less at the same level, therefore the prospects of a repeat of the feats at the CWG are bright. Even if the Cubans, Americans and Asian boxers were around, CWG boxing would still be considered world class. This is so especially in the extremely competitive men’s boxing. Unlike women’s boxing, men’s boxing has been around much longer and had reached its saturation point for long ago, with the implication that those who come out on top, can consider themselves standing on a plateau from where not many more can go higher. But the plateau is crowded with talents, and probably in each weight class, there are 100 other boxer who on his day can beat any reigning champion. This being the case, Laishram Debendro and others, though very good, would still have to be always on the alert and fiddle fit. In women boxing which is relatively very new, the saturation point is still not reached. This is why the standard keeps improving substantially each year. It is also apparent, after some weight classes were included in the Olympics for the first time in London two years ago, the lure of the Olympics is inducing more and more talented women boxers to take to the sports. This is a caution for Manipur’s shining stars, Mary Kom and Laishram Sarita. Both are punching above their weights because there are only a relatively few weight classes in women’s boxing admitted as Olympic discipline as yet, and age is not on their side either. The upcoming Asian Games and the next Olympics two years hence probably would be their only realistic chances for a prestigious international gold. But the way to this glory is going to be far from easy. Even within the country, the competition is stiffening, as we all are witness to.

These words of caution notwithstanding, our congratulations and gratitude to all our sports stars for putting our State on the national consciousness for a positive reason for once. They are truly our goodwill ambassadors, and it is they who made the new government at the Centre take notice and award the State handsomely with the promise of a Sports University. With this prospect in mind, sports authorities in the State ought to take note of the pattern of sporting excellence the State throws up consistently. There is no point arguing that producing world class sportspersons in certain sports disciplines would be simply out of our reach. It should be equally clear that the opposite is equally true and that given our general physiognomy, environmental conditioning through the eons, cultural orientation, we can also produce world beaters in certain other sporting disciplines.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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