Legends champion a cause

Legends champion a cause

Infrastructure has been viewed as a massive stumbling block to India's progress in sport for long.

Privately-funded bodies have attempted to address this need and latest to step into the arena is the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence which officially opened here on Saturday.

Set in a sprawling 15 acres just off Airport Road, the facility, which is the brainchild of former badminton player Vivek Kumar, is an athlete's dream come true as it offers world-class facilities under one roof.

It also houses the SAI-Abhinav Bindra Target Performance Centre, which is a state-of-the-art facility aimed at improving the performance of elite Indian athletes in addition to aiding in their rehabilitation.

"Being a sportsman myself, this project has been a long-standing dream of mine and I am delighted to see it come to fruition," beamed Vivek at the inauguration of the centre.

Vivek couldn't have asked for more as two legends, Prakash Padukone and Rahul Dravid, among other accomplished sportspersons, will be by his side in an advisory role.

Expressing his delight at how facilities have transformed since he first began playing, former All-England champion Padukone said: "I remember I started playing at a marriage hall that had a single court and then Canara Union had three, Karnataka Badminton Association (KBA) has six, and now we have graduated to having 16 courts here. That's commendable and I believe this will become an iconic location for sport." Dravid, on the other hand, was excited at options the centre could offer young children as they pursue a career in sport.  "It is a great facility to train at but apart from that, what I like is the fact that there are multiple disciplines that a youngster could try his/her hand at here before actually specialising.

"What is also interesting is that elite athletes and normal kids will all be here side by side. It can definitely be a hub for learning," added the former Indian skipper.

A full-sized football pitch greets visitors at the entry, beyond which there are five tennis hard courts under a roof.  Moving further, the centre has an impressive 50-metre 10-lane swimming pool, which will be managed by Dronacharya Award winner Nihar Ameen of Dolphin Aquatics.

In early February, the Prakash Padukone Badminton Association (PPBA) will move out of KBA and relocate to the Centre for Sports Excellence with Vimal Kumar at the helm.  Also encompassed in the vast facility are a cricket ground and eight outdoor and five indoor pitches, with former Karnataka Ranji captain K Jeshwanth in charge.

The centre also has four squash courts, two acrylic basketball courts, five table tennis tables, a training track and a gym.  While there is no accommodation for the athletes at present, within the next one year, there will be a hostel that can accommodate between 150 and 300 individuals.

The centre, which will be fully functional by the end of January, is not meant only for national athletes as anyone can use it on a pay-and-play basis.

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