We need to improve competition at grassroot level: Usha

Mumbai: India`s `Sprint Queen` PT Usha on Wednesday said there is a need to have more participation in athletics to promote competition and improve the performance.

"The problem in our country is that there is no competition. In other countries they have many sprinters and they don`t have to go out to have competition (to improve themselves)," Usha said at the KOOH Sports event, where she is roped in as the brand ambassador for an initiative.

"Jessi (Joseph) is coming up very well and in two years she will give competition to Tintu (Luka). It is not only good for them but also the country."

Elaborating further, she said, "For example, Tintu is the lone runner in 800 m. There is no competition for her over here. You take Kenya, they have 200 runners. They are getting competition. Like that we need to improve. That will only help. Grassroot level competition is important."

The Olympian added that the facilities provided are better than what they were earlier but not to the standard of European nations.

"Compared to 70s and 80s, the infrastructure has improved. We are also sending the athletes out to get exposure. But still the facilities we have can`t be compared to that in Europe," she said.

KOOH Sports that is engaged in the business of sports promotion and education in the country today launched an initiative to scout talent at school level called `SpeedStar`.

The talent hunt will identify the fastest 100-meter runner in three categories--under 12, under 14 and under 16.

The programme will be rolled out in 11 cities, with close to 20,000 children participating and six of the national winners (boy and girl in each of the category) will travel to Australia for a week, where they will train at Sports Credentials (Gold Coast, Queensland).

On the initiative, PT Usha said, "We are confident that SpeedStar will mark the first step of celebrating the importance of athletics. We know the history of Indian athletics and how it has been limited to the select few. To improve our performance at international level, it is essential to take mini steps.

"Sports is not just about basking in the glory of well earned victories, but equally about teaching oneself about the setbacks and then winning. It is important to realise that great sporting careers don`t begin at world cup or marathon but they begin in backyards and school playground."

She further said,"It is imperative that we as a country realise the importance of sports in the current education system. Given the current juncture that sports is in today, I would request the schools to promote sports in conjunction to academy."

AFI President Adille Sumariwala said, "It is indeed commendable to witness the much needed private participation in the sector that will ultimately shape the fabric of sports in the country."

The initiative commences on January 5 and will culminate on February 10.


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