Riding on Neeraj’s shoulders, it’s time for athletics to take a big leap

Neeraj Chopra and Shaili Singh. File  

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra’s stunning Olympic gold in Tokyo, and the way it was won, have made many corporate houses run to him to promote their brands. The 23-year-old’s annual brand endorsement fees have now shot up impressively.

“Neeraj’s brand endorsement fees have gone up by 10 times. He is now among the top three in the country among active sportspersons,” Divyanshu Singh, Head-Commercial Strategy at JSW Sports which manages the Olympic champion, told The Hindu on Thursday. “He has surpassed many cricketers too.”

That should inspire Indian athletics to think big. The Athletics Federation of India was a bold and busy body this year conducting many national championships which brought rich rewards at the Tokyo Olympics and the Nairobi under-20 Worlds (3 medals) but now this is a time to make giant leaps.

Here are a few things that could lift the sport:

During the Tokyo Olympics, athletics was the most watched sport in the country with hockey at No. 2 but far behind.

Push for live coverage

So, it is time the AFI pushed the many sports channels for live television coverage of its nationals. The AFI has been livestreaming its championships the last few years but more needs to be done to keep its new followers hooked.

The SAI and Sports Ministry have done much good work this year, still life can be made a lot better for athletes. Hard, cracked poorly-maintained tracks, torn pole-vault and high jump beds and lack of safety nets for throws are some of the dangerous conditions athletes have to go through even in some State meets.

Now is the time for all, especially Government agencies and corporate houses, to join hands to ensure better days which could see more Neerajs and Shaili Singhs popping up.

Even national camp conditions – athletes have often spoken about hard tracks at Patiala and many leading quartermilers are injured – need to be improved.

There is also a need to take national championships around the country and synthetic track-relaying work which are progressing slowly in many cities need to be completed soon.

With 2022 crowded with Worlds, under-20 Worlds, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, that could give the AFI more options for conducting competitions and camps.

Statistics enrich sport and athletics could offer more on its websites, including progression charts of events, athletes’ background info, top rivalries to watch out for at championships, frequently updated lists of national campers, coaches accompanying athletes at majors and list of athletes who have failed dope tests or caught fudging age.

Neeraj’s Olympic gold moment could be to athletics what India’s 1983 World Cup triumph was to cricket.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 7:55:46 AM |

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