Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gymnasts break new ground

Maharashtra Herald, July 18, 2007

PUNE: There was a time when Indian gymnasts couldn’t even mull taking part in international competitions. So appalling were our standards that it was never thought to be a worthwhile exercise to send our gymnasts for international meets.
But that appears to be a thing of the past. Indian gymnasts are now not just participating in international events, but beginning to make a statement.
The quartet of Sanjay More, Sampat Shirsat, Tensubam Singh and Babun Das (all from BEG, Khadki) not only did the country proud, but also brought smiles on the faces of gymnastic lovers with a stellar effort, bagging a coveted bronze in the group event of the recently-concluded 7th Asian acrobatic gymnastics championship at Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The talented quartet underwent strenuous training at the Army Institute of Physical Training (AIPT) under coach K C Vadiraj and under the able supervision of Brig. Ashok Rathore. And what makes their achievement all the more remarkable is that they managed to script glory on their debut. "This is the first time that the Indian team has taken part in an acrobatic gymnastics meet. We never had the thought process going of sending our gymnasts for international meets, as we were not up to international standards," said Major C Vajiram, in-charge of gymnastics at Army Institute of Physical Education (AIPE) near Hadapsar.
Vajiram who himself is a former international gymnast, says the Indian gymnasts deserved a pat on their backs for putting up an eye-catching performance. "Not long ago we were way behind most of the top Asian countries. So, you can well imagine how much we were lagging behind," he said.
Vajiram was sanguine about the Kazakhstan bronze medal effort acting as a springboard for the sport to blossom in the country. "Sometimes you need a kick to reap laurels on the world stage. I think this is a very good beginning. I’m sure performances like this would pave the way for our gymnasts to attain such feats in future," he added.
AIPT coach K C Vadiraj is also on seventh heaven. "The boys put in the hard yards and full marks to them," said the man who has been training the triumphant foursome for the last three years.
Vadiraj made a pitch for improved facilities if the gymnasts have to sustain such performances. "We need a hi-tech gym. We also require the services of a well-qualified physiotherapist, who can ensure speedy recovery of injuries. Abroad, we’ve seen how gymnasts take lesser time to recover from injuries because of the availability of top-notch physios.
"In India, our gymnasts suffer injuries and lack of a good physio means the rehab programme of our gymnasts is longer and it forces them to skip national camps and tourneys," Vadiraj added with a ring of realism.

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