Kodagu battlers ready for action

Kodagu battlers ready for action

Kodagu battlers ready for action

If there is one place in Karnataka that has produced top quality hockey players on a consistent basis, it has to be Kodagu. And when it comes to producing Olympians, few regions can match this picturesque district.

Joining the stalwarts likes MP Ganesh, BP Govinda (both 1972 Olympics), AB Subbaiah (1992, 96) and CS Poonacha (1992), Arjun Halappa (2004) who all donned the Indian colours at the quadrennial extravaganza, is the quartet of SV Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, SK Uthappa and VR Raghunath who will form part of India’s charge in Rio.

“I am lucky to have been born in a region that has such rich tradition of hockey,” gushed India’s ace dragflicker Raghunath.

“The tradition dates long back. We have that in our blood. Promoting hockey and joining the Indian Army are the two things that people in Kodagu look up to as they grow up,” he remarked.

While Raghunath believes that it’s the love for the game that has resulted in such a surge of players, the vice-captain of the Rio-bound side, Sunil, credited the way in which Kodagu nurtures the upcoming talent. “I think it has got more to do with the way we nurture talent. We have clubs and loads of teams that play hockey,” said the forward.

“I remember my days. The seniors at the club would come home and drag me to the ground if I didn’t turn up for a practice session.”

Uthappa explains the keen interest that the people back in his hometown take in the game: “Recently when I was back home for two days, the way people spoke -- not only the ones I knew, but also strangers -- about the Champions Trophy was really touching.

“It not just a compliment, but people would dissect and analyse every move of yours. Things like you should have done this and not that and so on. That shows the interest people have,” he said.

Joining the illustrious list of hockey Olympians from Kodagu for the first time is Thimmaiah. And the 25-year-old is eagerly looking forward to it. “I grew up reading and hearing about Olympics. And here I am preparing for what will be my first Olympics. I want to ensure that I do well and give the best for my team,” stressed the 25-year-old.

While the Kodagu quartet is sure to play a key role in the Indian set up for sometime now, there are worrying signs. The junior national side, that is busy preparing for the Junior World Cup later this year, has no player from Karnataka. Raghunath, though, believes that it’s just a phase.

“Yes, we did have a small break in between, where you had no one coming up in the age-group category. But I see it as a part of a cycle,” he said.

“We have been identifying good players in the U-16 and U-18 level. And I am sure by next year we will have guys in these age-group teams too. But insofar as the Junior World Cup is concerned, the core group looks set and it’s difficult for anyone to break in now,” he reasoned.
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