Hyderabad: Badminton player Jwala Gutta, shooter Gagan Narang and retired IAS officer B. V. Papa Rao are three Hyderabadis who have been inducted in the newly constituted Governing Body of the Sports Authority of India that will look into sporting affairs in the country and work towards enhancement of India’s performance on international stage, more particularly the Olympic Games.
While Jwala and Gagan are among the eight “Eminent Sportspsersons” nominated by the Sports Ministry, Papa Rao is the sole sports administrator in the “Sports Experts” category picked by the Centre. Former cricketer Chetan Chauhan, ex-athletes Shiny Wilson and Ashwini Nachappa, former weightlifter Kunju Ranji Devi, former hockey player M. P. Ganesh and archer Abhishek Verma are other members in the “Eminent Sportspersons” bracket.
Former Indian hockey captain Viren Rasquinha of the Olympic Gold Quest too has been included in the 31-member Governing Body. Jwala is thrilled. “This comes as a pleasant surprise, I wasn’t expecting it,” she told this newspaper on Thursday. “It is an acknowledgement of my contribution to sports in the country. I hope I’ll be able to give back to sport more than I got from it. It’s been my wish for a long time and I am grateful that the government has picked me on the Board,” the 33-year-old beamed.
As is her wont, the 2011 World Championships bronze medallist plans to take on the odds. “I would like to change the attitude of people towards sports. Many still look at it as a hobby or a fitness thing but a sportsperson is a serious professional just like an engineer or a doctor. I will definitely put forward my suggestions at meetings, and be good at it,” she asserts. Also, “I have always been vocal about discrimination in sport, especially badminton. It’s always 10 or 12 boys and just about four girls who are sent to participate in tournaments abroad... and no doubles players. I would like to bridge that gap.”
“Speaking of badminton, I will push for equal treatment of those 20 players when it comes to financial support, medical care and personal attention. Once we do that we can look at 10 medals at the Olympics and not just two. I also feel focussing on one medal at the cost of 100 other players is not fair,” Jwala, who won a gold, two silvers and a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, said. Gagan too is excited. “I am delighted to be inducted into the Governing Body of SAI. I have got so much love and support from the country and proudly say that I am a product of the system,” the 33-year-old said.
“It has been my lifelong dream to give back to Indian sports. I take the experience of building an institution from scratch to serve Indian sports with great determination, passion and zeal. There have been instances where I had ideas but didn’t have the right platform to implement them. I tried them within my capacity at my academy Gun For Glory and have seen positive results. This (SAI Committee) is a great platform and I am keen to see the ideas making bigger impact,” the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist said.
Speaking about the task on hand, Gagan, a multiple medal winner at world events, said: “India has talent in every field but due to various reasons they don’t get right opportunities to showcase their talent. Being a sportsperson myself, I connect with fellow sportspersons well. I know what a sportsperson goes through, so it will be easier for me to put those things in front of the committee.”
Papa Rao is a veteran is sports administration. “I was there with the Sports Authority of India since its inception. It was formed in the late 1980s, after New Delhi hosted the Asian Games. In my capacity as OSD for five years I have launched many important programmes,” he said. “During that time, SAI was short of money, now it’s properly funded. And we have a good team with Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel, Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas and others who want to do their best in India’s preparation for Olympics. This will also help me contribute to sports in Telangana,” Mr Rao, an advisor to the Telangana Government, said.