The Payyoli Express was speaking at a media briefing to announce the launch of the ‘SpeedStar’ programme, a first of its kind initiative to track India’s fastest running sensation for the 100m sprint event.
“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 abroad to compete. For example, Tintu Luka is the lone runner in 800m, there aren’t many athletes at the same level as her. You take Kenya, they have 200 runners who are almost at the same level. We need such a base if we want athletics to yield medals at the international level,” she said.
Emphasising on early training, she added, “It is important to realise that great sporting careers don’t begin at World Cup’s or marathons, but in backyards and school playgrounds. There is a need to develop athletes at the grassroot level to win medals in Olympics.
“The facilities we have right now can’t be compared to that in Europe. But if you see what we had in the 70’s and 80’s, the infrastructure has improved,” she said at the sidelines of the programme that will send six finalists (one girl and one boy each from the U-12, U-14 and U-16 category) to train with London Olympics 100m hurdles gold medallist Sally Pearson’s coach Sharon Hannan at the Sports Credentials in Australia for a week.
In its first edition, ‘SpeedStar’ will be held in 11 locations — Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Sonepat, Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The initiative is expected to tap 600 schools across the country.