mid-day editorial: Help athletes focus on running

I t was memorable Sunday for long distance running aficionados in Mumbai yesterday. The men’s winner Gideon Kipketer in the Mumbai marathon, made light work of humid weather and a challenging, crowded course by shattering the record by nearly a minute.

What should bring the most cheers to camp India though was the sterling show by Indian athletes. India’s Narendra Singh Rawat, running in style with Oakley sun glasses perched on his head, sent the Indian record careening with a stellar performance and reaching the first 10 overall. Amongst the overall women, India’s Sudha Singh was seventh, attest to the massive improvement shown by Indians in the event recently. At the pre-event conference, Indian runners were bullish about their prospects. The men had stated that they would smash the Indian course record, while the women, Olympic qualifiers, were looking for good timing but said they were using the marathon as an endurance building event. The performance of all Indian top runners lent credence to the claim that we are now snapping at the heels of the world’s best. With all the Indians qualifying for the Rio Olympics to be held in August this year, one hopes they have a smooth journey in their pet event. Some have qualified in the steeple chase, others have distance events like the 5,000 m in their sights. Whatever the event, they now need six months of competing at the highest levels, great facilities, adequate rest and most of all, mental peace.

Too many times, our athletes have been jerked around, played with, told to change events at the last minute and treated abominably by sporting powers, in the run up to big ticket events like the Olympics. They are told by officials to guarantee medals before they compete.

Yesterday, all of them reposed so much faith in the system and were all praise for their coach. Let’s give Indian athletes a great run till Rio, challenging on the field but let them also experience no mental turbulence on the path to Brazil. It is the least we can do for the brave men and women, who are striving day and night to try and fly the tricolour at Rio.

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