April 06, 2017

Why We Don’t See Wrestlers from Tamil Nadu or Runners from Bihar and Haryana

By Kadambari Shah, Prakhar Mishra

Why some states do better than others at some sports, Kadambari Shah and Prakhar Mishra, look into the numbers for this insightful piece in the Firstpost. Excerpts from the article are below:


"Competitors are driven by incentives: personal motivation, financial security, or social factors. Directing these incentives towards core policy arenas is crucial in making headway in sports anywhere in the world. To begin with, in addition to central government awards, Haryana and Punjab offer special perks like fat cash prizes, fancy cars, and job security to its sportspersons. In Haryana, under the new sports policy, a gold medal fetches Rs 6 crore, silver is Rs 4 crore, and a bronze is worth Rs 2.5 crore. Moreover, just for participating, each sportsperson gets Rs 15 lakh. The Punjab Government gives similar amounts, and extends such benefits to the Commonwealth Games and other world championships too. Likewise, Karnataka has set up a fee-reimbursement scheme where children from classes XI to post-graduation can get their tuition fee reimbursed if they participate in the Games; for sports like gymnastics and swimming, children from Class V onwards (age 10) are eligible...


We can see that wrestlers and boxers predominantly come from Haryana. Yogeshwar Dutt, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar are some examples. Tennis and badminton players like Sania Mirza, Pullela Gopichand, Leander Paes come from western/southern cities like Hyderabad, Maharashtra, and Bangalore. The pattern extends to runners like Anju Bobby George, PT Usha, MD Valsamma hailing from Kerala.


This dichotomy is reflected in the data as well. In our sample, approximately 90% of Olympic archers and wrestlers/boxers/weightlifters come from the North and Northeast states of the country. Approximately 75% tennis and approximately 80% badminton stars rise from South India and Maharashtra. But why don’t we see wrestlers from Tamil Nadu and runners from Bihar?


In Kerala, 14 of the 16 Arjuna awardees the state has produced have been women. In addition, approximately 75% of long/high jumpers come from Kerala in our data set. Better facilities, flatter grounds are some reasons cited. The most important one, however, is that schools are encouraged to identify athletes at a very young age and prepare them for a career accordingly. For instance, Gopi Thonakkal, a tribal athlete who was selected by his school teacher and was trained in running since, represented India at the Rio Olympics."


You can read the full article here.

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