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March on Haryana, Punjab - Top performing states in sports and Why?

Nirendra Dev

Nirendra DevAug 10, 2021, 08:52 AM IST

March on Haryana, Punjab - Top performing states in sports and Why?



Haryana and Punjab account for just 4.4 per cent of India’s population, but they together sent 50 athletes to the Tokyo Games this year, accounting for 40 per cent of the Indian contingent. 


New Delhi: There are certainly medals to win in the Olympics, though the game's spirit also matters.


But another important factor is the infrastructure facilities and right training and atmosphere for the athletes and other sporting icons.


In Rajya Sabha on August 9, no less than the chairperson and country's Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu, did some plain speaking.


“Forty per cent of the members of the Indian contingent were from Punjab and Haryana,” he pointed out, adding the vital words of advice - “other states should emulate Punjab and Haryana” in creating infrastructures.


Between Punjab and Haryana again, observers say lately Haryana has been better off.


Of Course, Haryana was once a part of Punjab, and only in 1966, it became a separate state.


Haryana and Punjab account for just 4.4 per cent of India’s population, but they together sent 50 athletes to the Tokyo Games this year, accounting for 40 per cent of the Indian contingent.


Haryana had 31 athletes, nearly 25 per cent of the total, and Punjab sent 19.


Sporting laurels and laudatory words about them is nothing new for Haryana and also Punjab.


For a long time, Haryana has produced acclaimed sporting stars and Olympiads. Cricket legend Kapil Dev is also from the state and was aptly crowned 'Haryana Hurricane'.



But most of it also had to do with individual passion, but Haryana is India's sporting powerhouse. And why not?


"Indian wrestling means Haryana,” said 83-year-old triple Olympian Udey Chand a few years ago.


He represented India in 1968, 1964 and 1960 Olympics.


For Haryana sports, there is a strong military connection too; and it did not start with Rajputana Rifles and Neeraj Chopra.


A host of Haryana players joined the army, and after retirement, many of them took to spotting and coaching young talents.


There are other reasons as well for Haryana's success in sports. One of them is also about the state's inherent 'culture', emphasising robust physique!


Geographical reasons, poverty, and dependence on farming encourage men and women to work in the fields under a sweltering sun.


For men, joining Fauz - the army and police is a much sought after profession. And when it comes to wrestling, they are into it with a natural affinity and also in boxing.


Dangals (local wrestling competitions and Akharas) are an integral part of Haryana societies.


In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, there were two members from Haryana – Bhim Singh (athletics) and Udey Chand (wrestling).


In fact, within a week, Haryana was carved out of Punjab on November 1, 1966, athlete Bhim Singh from Bhiwani became the first Asian Games gold medalist for the newborn state.



Bhim Singh created a record with a high jump of 2.05 metres.


Another performer was a heavyweight boxer, Hawa Singh, who won the gold medal at the games.


In recent times, in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, of the 55-member squad, nine players were from Haryana.


Remember, the Indian Hockey team did not qualify for the Beijing Olympics.


In the 2012 London and 2016 Rio, Haryana sent the maximum players to put on Indian cap and also won medals.


Boxer Vijender Singh won a bronze in Beijing, wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt and Sakshi Malik returned with a silver medal and a bronze from the London and Rio Olympics.


Sakshi also became the country’s first woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal.


In 2016, Haryana sent the largest representation of 20 players at the Rio Olympics, while 14 came from Punjab. Punjab's domination in the Indian contingent has been an almost permanent feature for a long time.



Analysing these, it ought to be stated that Punjab Police over the years have proved to be the real 'booster' factor in ensuring sporting glories.


Some players from Haryana, too, have benefited in the past from Punjab's encouragement.


A noted volleyball star and Arjuna awardee Amir Singh hails from Haryana but joined Punjab Police in 1992, was promoted as an inspector in 1998.


Punjab, of course, has been winning the national volleyball tournament from time to time.


Educational institutes in Punjab, too, have been doing well in sports.


The Punjabi University in Patiala, between 2012 and 2016, had won the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy for excellence in sports for the fifth time in a row.


In Amritsar, the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) has won the trophy over 20 times.


The obvious question would be where are other universities and other states.


Of course, there were sports in Kolkata too. But they were more in football and the form of players ‘changing three clubs’ and the stinking politics involved in it.


In 2021, when Mamata Banerjee screams 'Khela hobey', it's not about sports.


It is about political violence.


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