New Delhi, 23 June 2020: On the occasion of International Olympic Day celebrations, sporting legends Leander Paes, Abhinav Bindra, Anju Bobby George and former dragflick specialist from the Netherlands Floris Bovelander were joined by Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, President, Indian Olympic Association, Vineel R. Krishna, Managing Director, Odisha Mining Corporation Ltd, Addl Ch. Director, Sports & Youth Services and MD Odisha Mining Exploration Ltd, Bhubaneswar, Chanakya Chaudhary, Vice President, Corporate Services, Tata Steel and Chairman of Hockey Ace Foundation, and Elena Norman, CEO, Hockey India to engage in an impactful webinar discussion on momentum towards post Covid-19 Olympics.
The webinar organised by Department of Sports and Youth Services, Odisha in association with Naval Tata Hockey Academy and hosted by former cricketer Deep Dasgupta, saw conversations that laid emphasis on providing greater assistance and support for elite athletes to return to high-intensity training. "It is important, more so now, than ever to stay active, stay healthy both mentally and physically," expressed Dr Batra stressing on "move", "learn" and "discover" -- the three pillars of Olympic Day movement.
He further stated, "The next one year is going to be critical and the focus will be on elite athletes. While we have 78 athletes who have already qualified, I am confident the numbers will go up to about 125 athletes once international competitions and qualifying meets resume around the globe. The preparations will be a joint effort by the Government of India, IOA, NSFs and I feel this is a situation where best needs to be taken out of the worst,"
He further stated, "Few sports like hockey, weight-lifting and athletics have already started and shooting too will begin sometime in mid July. I am in touch with all the NSFs, as well as some athletes and I am optimistic we are on track for Tokyo Olympics in 2021."
Odisha Government remains committed to sports
Earlier in the session, Vineel R. Krishna, welcoming the panel, optimistically stated, "Every crisis provides an opportunity. This is the time we need to reorient our strategy and optimise the outcome. We need to focus on basics first, on the grassroots, improve existing infrastructure, and leverage our strengths. We are also looking at leveraging tribal residential schools. Use of technology too will be important to reduce costs and enhance knowledge sharing."
He further stated despite the setbacks due to the pandemic, the Department of Sports and Youth Services, Odisha are on track to complete the world-class infrastructure for the FIH Men's World Cup in 2023. "We hope to keep up the momentum with respect to sports and we will aim to complete the infrastructure in time for the Men's World Cup."
Creating heroes and having holistic approach is key
Olympic Champion, Bindra insisted that a holistic approach is what will make the difference. "Olympics is once in 4 years, and athletes have only one shot at glory, and it's important to have a holistic approach, use science, use medicine, use technology and engineering in training and that will make a difference," Bindra said.
Underlining the importance of tapping talent in the rural belt, seven time Olympian and multiple grand slam winner Leader Paes said, "I would like to thank Odisha government for going deeper into the rural areas in the state to find talent. Most of India's talent is untouched, and it is great that Odisha has set an example of creating excellence at grass root level. This is very important. More global events are coming to Odisha and while the state has done fabulously in hosting the Men's World Cup in 2018 among other events, the programs rolled out to develop grass root sports in association with corporates is commendable. I always believe when great minds come together, great results can be achieved.”
Highlighting India's resurgence in hockey, Bovelander said, "What Hockey India has done with the sport in India over the last ten years is immense and it has got people back in the sport. Dr Batra started Hockey India League and that was a major effort that created popularity. You need to create heroes in the sport to inspire the youth and I feel Indian hockey is on the right path."
Nostalgic about her Olympic Moment, Anju Bobby George said, "I believe this is right time to extend our support to next generation. During my initial days, I never got an opportunity, no one was there to guide me or show the path. It took me a long time to reach international arena, I wasted time running pillar to post looking for support but these days, Academies particularly those run by former athletes are giving good platform to talented kids. We need a lot more precision in our planning and I am sure we will achieve results in athletics."
Deeper significance of Olympic Day
Talking about the significance of Olympic Day, Norman said, "This year the Olympic Day has a deeper significance and use power of sports to overcome adversities the pandemic has caused. Sports have always taught us lessons of being resolute and never give up regardless of the odds and I strongly believe sports will give people a reason to celebrate and feel motivated again, like it always has. The Olympic Movement is important for us at Hockey India and our Member Units always actively part take in the celebrations with enthusiasm. We use this occasion to spread awareness not just about hockey but sports in general."
She further added, "We are very proud where our men and women's teams are and they are adamant about winning a medal at the Olympics next year. From our point of view, we want to go from strength-to-strength. With the extra one year now to prepare the teams, they will go to Tokyo as best as possible."
Norman further thanked Government of Odisha, "I am heartened to hear that the Odisha State Government will continue to support sports despite the pandemic and they are focused on developing the grassroots. They have been a huge support to us in our aim to take the sport to the next level."
The second session of the webinar was a hockey-specific session where Bovelander was joined by Indian Men's Hockey Team Chief Coach Graham Reid, ace goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and drag flick specialist Harmanpreet Singh. Dilip Tirkey and Monika from the Indian Women's Hockey Team too were part of the second session as well which touched upon the technicalities involved in penalty corner attack, defence, different variations and innate qualities of a good dragflick specialist.
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