For the love of the game

For the love of the game

SWINGIN’ IT Tarun Hukku is determined to make golf one of the choices kids pick up as a sport — as much as cricket or tennis or basketball.

A sure sign that sports in India have a great future are the efforts of pioneers who do it not just because it’s ‘in’ or because they are drawn to the lucre, but because of their passion. It’s especially heartening that it’s gone much beyond cricket and tennis, to sports such as cycling, golf, running and even bouldering.

Golf is for everyone

Golf has always been an elitist, exclusive sport, hasn’t it? Now imagine a Beginner’s Guide to Golf that is translated into six different languages to reach everyone. Tarun Hukku, Head of Services at Microland, and a Member of the Leadership Committee at TiE,  was sceptical too when he took up golf. However, unlike most people who take to a sport, Tarun has gone beyond just improving his own game, and has been busy dispelling the many myths and the baggage of a class divide that plagues golf, to make it accessible to many more people. He is determined to make it one of the choices kids pick up as a sport — as much as cricket or tennis or basketball. ChotaGolf (http://ChotaGolf.com) is a coming together of many of these efforts and desires through which Tarun, with help from numerous experts and players, wants to ensure a higher penetration of the game in India.

“As I learned the game, I felt strongly that more people should benefit from it, and that it’s not really as intimidating as it sounds. So I set out to demystify the game and get more people exposed to it. Why wait till one is rich and famous to give back to the game? The clubs where golf exists today might be exclusive, but the game cannot afford to be, and it becomes a professional sport only if more people take to it right from childhood. I would love to see golf become India’s second largest game by 2020,” he says.

To try and translate this dream into reality on the ground, Tarun has plans to take golf to people, since most beginners find access to the game quite daunting. ChotaGolf already has Vijay Divecha, one of India’s top three golf coaches, helping out with training and advice. Soon, they plan to also roll out introductory programmes in schools. As the name suggests, Tarun also is trying to ensure that people are able to play the game just about anywhere, quite like gully cricket and neighbourhood football. The thought is simple yet revolutionary – lower the entry barriers, make the game friendlier and more will start taking to the game.

So if you have always wondered about this game from outside the tall fences, perhaps it’s time you took a swing at it with some help from Tarun.

Keep running

Dr Rajat Chauhan is a near-legend among endurance runners in India. He is also a specialist in musculo-skeletal medicine and the chairperson for the 2011 World Congress for Science and Medicine in Cricket. And his zeal for promoting running is extraordinary.
Each October, he runs a half marathon every day to try and inspire people to take to running. And most recently, he’s decided to take running in India to a completely new high, literally, as he organises the LA Ultra — the High (http://thehigh.in/). This is the world’s highest marathon being run across some of the toughest passes of the Himalayas (‘La’ in Ladakhi refers to a mountain pass). It’s being held this July and is meant for a select few serious long distance runners across the world, by invitation only.
“I’ve been running from an early age and I’ve managed to keep doing it without injury despite bad advice! My work in sports medicine, and my interest in running just came together at the right time as long distance running started growing in India. Everyone should run for health benefits, but ultras, or even marathons, are the next step that some serious runners move to. These need the right technique, proper training and advice that are currently missing at what are primarily managed as events, not always as serious runs. Done wrong, they can put a lot many people off running altogether. I’m trying to create awareness about running as a sport, provide the right advice, and get involved in the events as someone who understands the needs of the sport, both professionally and as a runner.”

Of course, Dr Rajat encourages all kinds of runners, and has personally helped many run their first few kilometres in life. “Running needs no special equipment, or fancy shoes, and anyone can start just about anywhere. I am always looking to get inactive people moving, no matter what the distance covered or how long they take to do it,” he says.
Having done umpteen runs, Dr Rajat had to try and surpass himself. He wanted to run the Badwaters, touted to be the toughest race in the world. But owing to a variety of reasons, this was not to be. Most would have waited for the next year. Doc, on the other hand, decided to organise the  LA Ultra, and set a new bar for long distance running. Dr Rajat’s passion gives one hope that long distance running in India has a very strong future ahead.

No fear of heights

As CEO of Wildcraft, India’s first and biggest outdoor gear manufacturer, Dinesh K S is positive about the future of the great outdoors. Yet, he’s watched outdoor activity grow excruciatingly slowly in India and finally, could not wait anymore. So, he has taken to promoting bouldering — a more accessible version of rock climbing.

It’s a sport that will probably never attract too many spectators, but it builds character, the ability to get out of tough situations, and a never-say-die attitude like few other sports do.

Says Dinesh, “You learn to push yourself hard, execute plans to get out of tough situations, and not give up.” And he’s definitely not giving up promoting the passion that got him started with his career in the first place. He has, slowly but surely, been working towards creating a niche for this extreme sport. You can even see Dinesh’s love for the sport in Wildcraft’s logo!

Dinesh understands that rock climbing is a more intense technical activity, and needs good, expensive equipment and good quality training and guidance, both of which he has been providing. “Done the right way, rock climbing is actually safer than driving on Bangalore’s roads,” he quips. Bouldering involves shorter climbs of a few metres, and crash pads ensure it is completely safe. He has set up an artificial climbing wall in his store that simulates a real rock face and lets people practice bouldering. Wildcraft also holds a national level bouldering competition for climbing enthusiasts of varying categories to test their skills against the best.

Dinesh’s current focus is on ensuring the right knowledge about climbing is made available. He organises workshops and introduces to college students the basics of climbing. “It’s not the numbers that matter alone, but the skill levels and intensity of those involved in the sport. One good climber goes a long way in building a brand for climbing.”

It’s an amazing passion that has persisted through highs and lows. And the sport has taught Dinesh to internalise that first lesson it teaches: not to give up.

Cycling superman

What drives someone to ride a cycle 700 km in under 24 hours? Samim Rizvi, a model, perfumer, activist and computer engineer-turned-cyclist recently did this, to become the first Indian ever to qualify for the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3000+ mile, 10-day race from the west to the east coast of America in June. This is the toughest endurance bike race in the world, and even qualifying for it is a major achievement. Samim’s motivation? “A total of 700 km in 24 hours is definitely excessive for any human being. One has to be driven by extreme passion to do something like this. I have always wanted to do my country, my parents and my kids proud.”

He’s also glad to have made a career out of what started as a love he has had for cycling since childhood.

Before he achieved this superhuman target, Samim Rizvi (http://www.samriz.com) has also run from Bangalore to Mumbai in 2005 to create awareness about global warming. Samim is not only a good rider, but a modest, helpful human being who has also become a role model and inspiration for many in the cycling community. “My advice to people who want to attempt 200 or more kilometres a day is to focus first on the physical aspect of the sport. Concentrate on building core strength. Endurance riding needs one to be extremely strong from the head to the toes. Build the miles slowly and steadily.”

And the advice has helped — relatively new riders are beginning to do 300 km+ rides. Samim has not only put India on the cycling map, but enhanced cycling as a sport here as well through sheer effort and the single-minded pursuit of his passion. His feats and fitness achieved at 41 have taken away our excuses for not getting up and pushing the pedals.

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