There is no indoor stadium or swimming pool for the sportspersons to practise during monsoon

For a district that finds itself leading in social and economic indices, surprisingly finds itself lagging behind when it comes to sports.

A strong indicator is the number of eligible beneficiaries for the reward amounts given by the Department for Youth Services and Sports (DYSS) for national-level medal winners. About Rs. 1 lakh had been given for the first place winner, Rs. 50,000 for the second place, and Rs. 25,000 for the third place.

“There is no one here that we can give this amount to. A lot of athletes from here have participated in the national-level events, but no one has won a medal there,” said an official from the department.

This was not to say that Dakshina Kannada lacked a tradition in athletics or sports.

Vandana Rao, a participant in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in women’s relay, and Vandana Shambogue, a participant in 1988 Olympics relay race, have brought laurels to the district; while among the current lot, Sahana Kumari, who finds a place representing India in High Jump at this year’s Olympics and M. R. Poovamma, 400 m International-level athlete, are potential medal winners.

Neglect in sports here, perhaps, starts with the handling of the DYSS district unit. Severely understaffed, the Department has only an in-charge Assistant Director P. Parshvanath, who is on deputation from the Fisheries Department. “There is no regular officer here, and this hampers undertaking sports projects in the district,” the official said.

Further, he said, there was a shortage of qualified coaches: only five coaches operate in the district, covering athletics, weightlifting, hockey and volleyball. Incidentally, these are the sports that bag the region most medals in the Mysore Dasara competitions. Whereas, archery and swimming do not have a government-appointed coach, leading to a medal drought here.

Infrastructure remains another contentious issue in the development of sports here. The centre of the sporting world in the district, Mangala Stadium, awaits a synthetic track, whose works which had started in February, is yet to see completion.

For a district where water sources are in plenty, infrastructure for water sports such as sailing and rowing had not been developed. “Water sports have been neglected, and we haven’t been allotted permanent land to develop the infrastructure,” said Mr. Parshvanath.

With less than a handful indoor stadiums in the district, rains, which were seen here during five months of the year on average, are bound to play truant to practising sportspersons.

Manohar U., whose son was selected for National junior swimming championships, said as all the swimming pools in the city were outdoors. “It is difficult to compete with indoor clubs from Bangalore or other big metros,” he said.

Mangalore-centric

Sports remains confined to Mangalore city, with very few sportspersons or sporting personalities coming from outside the region. Indoor sports facilities, shuttle courts, and swimming clubs are all concentrated in the city or in educational institutions such as Alva’s College.

Outside Mangalore, Puttur Taluk stadium has one government-appointed coach; while Sullia does not have a taluk stadium, the stadium in Belthangady is overrun with weeds due to neglect.

It was to amend this that PAIKA or the Panchayat Raj Yuva Khel Krida Abhiyan was launched by the Centre in 2008. The scheme, which aims at covering 10 per cent of the gram panchayats in the district yearly, hands out Rs. 1 lakh per panchayat to develop sports facilities. Within the next five years, the department aims at covering all 203 gram panchayats in the district.

However, sources in the department said while around 60 gram panchayats had been given funds, none of the facilities had yet come up. Similarly, the meagre amount of Rs. 500 a month given to coaches had only attracted a lukewarm response from physical trainers.

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