With eye on future, athletes practise in empty stadium

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With eye on future, athletes practise in empty stadium

Meghana Shetty, an under-18 State champion, is stretching by a long jump pit at the Kanteerava stadium, eyes focused on Vishwanath Rao Beedu, her coach. “Look at me,” he screams, as she prepares for the day’s first jump.

Her eyes had inadvertently spanned about 40 degrees east, just 10 metres from her, where the lone spectator in the stands is engrossed in reading a newspaper.

The man is a metaphor for the kind of support some sporting forms garner in a country that has a teeming young population, but not many athletes competing at the international level.

This time, about two years ago, Bangalore’s citizenry was dancing to the tune of vuvuzelas like South Africans, who were hosting the FIFA World Cup.

The high streets were filled with aficionados sporting team colours, sports shops owners’ cash tills just overflowing. The celebrations were higher for the ICC Cricket World Cup which was co-hosted by India.

That mode of anticipatory thrall, waiting for adrenalin-pumping action, is elusive today, just four days ahead of what is believed to be the mother of all sporting events — Olympics 2012.

There is not even much space for trivia in conversations outside sports bars, some of which made collections of the lifetime during other events.

“This is not for the Olympics. It is for the future of Indian athletics,” Beedu said, pointing at the 20-odd students.

He said even cricketers need this, but we are not sure how much of it they have. “In 1991, I was helping the Indian cricket team and almost all of them refused to run six rounds of Chinnaswamy Stadium with me. I was 42, mind you.

Only Navjot Singh Sidhu was prepared to run and he outran me.”

Stating that his students do look at this only as a way to gain fame, he said, “...Medals come because they are good, but we do not want to be good only because we want medals,” he said.

A dipstick study on Thursday had a big difference in the number of persons with the knowledge of the number of people going to London from Karnataka and South African batsman Hashim Amla’s score against England.

Ravi Aiyappa, coach and husband of Olympian Pramila Aiyappa, said: “It is sad, but we have to go on. It is the passion that keeps you alive in this field.

We would like some support also.” Passion is something he can talk about as he was on the dot at the stadium to fulfil his commitment to his students despite his newborn daughter being in an incubator at a hospital.

S D Eshan, former international athlete and Asian Games medallist, is keeping himself slightly away from the shot (the heavy metal ball used in shot put) his student is practising with. His white Khadi shirt is bright, but he says there is a long way before one can say the same thing about the country’s athletes.

These are not names that do the circles. The events at the Olympics seem largely uninteresting for Bangaloreans, but the show must go on, people like Eshan, Aiyappa and others believe.

Meanwhile, it’s about an hour after Meghana’s first jump. Now, she looks straight into Beedu’s eyes. That lone spectator had gone, taking her distraction with him, wrapped under the daily that hung between his arm and the chest.

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