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Old August 20, 2004, 10:38 PM
rassel rassel is offline
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Default In race for Olympic gold, populous India and Pakistan lag far behind

By DAVID CRARY, Associated Press Writer

August 17, 2004

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are home to more than a fifth of the global population, yet when it comes to Olympic glory, no region feels more left out. Never has an athlete from the Asian subcontinent won an individual gold medal -- a streak that may well continue in Greece.

The reasons are many -- sparse training facilities, too few competent coaches, a dearth of youth programs and, in the case of India and Pakistan, world-class cricket teams that monopolize fan interest and corporate sponsorships.

``It's a vicious circle,'' said Norris Pritman, sports writer for the Indian Express of New Delhi. ``We don't do well because we don't have stars; we don't have stars because we don't do well.''

India, the world's second-most populous nation with nearly 1.1 billion people, has won only 15 medals in 21 Olympics, 11 of them -- including eight golds -- in men's field hockey. Three of the other medals were bronze, in wrestling, tennis and weightlifting. On Tuesday, trap shooter Rajvavardan Rathore became India's first individual silver medalist.

Pakistan, with 159 million people, has eight medals in field hockey but only two individual medals -- both bronze -- since entering the Olympics in 1948. Bangladesh, with 141 million people, has never won a medal.
The nations' institutional problems have been compounded by bad timing and bad luck. India's field hockey coach was fired shortly before the games. A top Indian weightlifter got blisters that affected her performance this week. Pakistan's best hope for a medal, boxer Nauman Karim, was barred from the games for using a prohibited weight-loss drug.

Brigadier Arif Siddiqui, director general of the Pakistan Sports Board, noted in an interview that his country is good at two non-Olympic sports -- cricket and squash -- but weak in virtually all Olympic disciplines except field hockey.

``Sports should be deep-rooted in our society,'' he said. ``We should not just focus on Olympic medals and a few international competitions, but use sports to improve the fitness of the entire nation.''

He spoke candidly of inadequate infrastructure and training programs, and said the government should disperse sports funds more widely, rather than concentrating on big stadiums and big events.

``In any developing country, schools, residential communities, universities and industrial complexes shouldn't be created without sports facilities,'' Siddiqui said.

Pakistan's team includes its first-ever entrant in women's swimming, freestyler Rubab Raza, and one other woman, 1,500-meter runner Suamaira Zahoor.

Zahoor holds the national record of 4:31 and hopes to trim her time in Athens to around 4:26, which would still be more than 35 seconds off the world record.

Zahoor, who turned 25 Sunday, did not start running competitively until she entered college. Though slow by international standards, she has no meaningful competition from other women in Pakistan, and Siddiqui suggested she train with the national boys' team.

Asked if she sometimes felt lonely and frustrated, she replied, ``Yes, very much. We need more young people participating, more coaches, more facilities.''

India, like Pakistan, has never won a medal in track and field. The only hope in Athens is Indian long jumper Anju Bobby George, who won her country's first world championship medal -- a bronze -- last year in France. Formerly coached by her husband, she is now under the tutelage of American world record holder Mike Powell.

Last November, India was chosen to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. It also plans to bid for the 2016 Olympics.


Edited on, August 21, 2004, 3:41 AM GMT, by rassel.

Edited on, January 23, 2005, 5:07 AM GMT, by rassel.
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Old August 21, 2004, 12:20 AM
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cricketfan cricketfan is offline
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These countries do not have any sports culture and supporting infrastructure. If they have managed to win some medals, it is inspite of the system, not because of it.
The governing bodies of most sports associations are headed by vested interests who have no understanding or love for the sports that they head.

In case of India, there are only two sports governing bodies, viz cricket and Chess, both non olympic sports, which are being run professionally. Cricket is backed by the Indian media and the corporate world in a big way. Chess has progressed by leaps and bounds in India mostly because of the exploits of one single individual i.e. Vishwanathan Anand.

If at all India will be able to win a few medals here and there in olympics and other events , it will be because of sheer individual efforts without the support of their governing bodies.

Edited on, August 21, 2004, 5:22 AM GMT, by cricketfan.
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