Lack of support rankles champions

State government's apathy disheartens gold-winning kabaddi players

Lack of support rankles champions

 The lifeblood for every athlete to continue to compete is support - from the sponsors, the philanthropists, the support staff and the government. 

When that support is denied to athletes, they lose hope in the system that was created to help them in the first place.

Karnataka had its fair share of medallists at the recent Asian Games in Incheon. But not a single one of them has been feted by the government as yet.

And this has clearly rankled the State’s women’s kabaddi players who represented India during their unbeaten run at the Asian Games in Incheon. 

Mamatha Poojary, Tejaswini Bai, Sushmitha Pawar and Jayanthi Singh took turns in asking the government as to why they haven’t yet been given the cash awards that they deserve when they addressed the media following a felicitation function organised by Bengaluru Bulls, a Pro-Kabaddi team. 

“We are proud athletes of Karnataka so there is a bit of disappointment that it is delayed,” rues Mamatha. “I hope the government continues to provide us the encouragement and make us happy”Mamatha, who says she has been promised a promotion to Chief Office Superintendent by South Central Railway (Secunderabad) following the gold medal, confesses that she would love to return to her State ‘but there aren’t many opportunities.’ Tejaswini Bai, who works with Mamatha in the same Railway division, also raises similar queries. “We are very happy that lots of people including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowol have met us.

“But we are yet to meet the Chief Minister of the State (Siddaramaiah) and that is sad.”

Tejaswini also raised the query about Karnataka not paying as much as other States when it came to rewarding athletes who win medals at international events. “One of my friends in the Indian contingent was given Rs two crores by her State government after she won a gold at the Asiad. 

“The maximum amount allotted to us for winning a gold is only Rs 10 lakh,” she pointed out with a forlorn look. 

While the Karnataka government are not answerable to anybody with respect to cash awards, they do rank below many of the State governments when it comes to giving out cash prizes. At the top end of the spectrum, Haryana and Gujarat reward their athletes with Rs. 2 cr, Rs.1 cr and Rs. 50 lakh for Asian Games gold, silver and bronze medallists respectively. 

MR Poovamma, part of the gold-medal winning 4x400 women’s relay team, had even threatened to quit representing Karnataka if the government didn’t reward her achievements adequately.  

Meanwhile, Karnataka have proposed to increase the prize money to Rs 25 lakh (gold), Rs 15 lakh (silver) and Rs 10 lakh (bronze) but there is nothing concrete as yet.

Both Sushmitha and Jayanthi, who are employed as constables with the Karnataka State Police, also raised similar issues with the media. 

The Bulls also feted Ajay Thakur, Manjit Chillar and Gurpreet Singh, three players who play for the city based franchise in PKL. The three players had represented the gold-winning national men’s side in Incheon. 

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