India needs dedicated coaches, academies: Milkha Singh

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Milkha Singh
New Delhi, July 18: India's legendary athlete Milkha Singh Thursday stressed the importance of employing coaches on contract basis and setting up dedicated sports academies in every state if the country wants to improve in athletics.

Milkha, the first Indian to win a Commonwealth Games gold in the 1958 Cardiff Games, was critical of India's coaching system and said that coaches in all field needed to be more accountable.

"We need to have coaches on contract system. They need to be held more accountable. We should give them a contract for 4-8 years and then ask them to produce results in that time period," Milkha told reporters at SportsMentor's launch of national-level school championship.

"Looking at India's population, it is astonishing after 1960, we have only seen a handful of top level athletes. What we need is a thousand Milkha Singhs and a thousand PT Ushas," he added.

Milkha stressed that the country needed sports academies in every state and the youngsters would then need to be groomed.

"There is no dearth of talent in India. We need to pick the talented youngsters and put them in sports academies and provide them with a proper diet and housing. Their education needs to be taken care of this very academy," he said.

"The need of the hour is to open dedicated sports academies in every state. Nowadays lot of people are focusing on sports universities and I dont think all that is needed."

Milkha represented India in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

However, after him India has produced just PT Usha, who can be called a world class athlete. There were athletes like Sriram Singh and Gurbachan Singh Randhawa but they were never able to replicate the exploits of the 'Flying Sikh'.

Also present at the press meet were Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Jiji Thomson and managing director of SportsMentor S. Ramakrishnan.

"There is a lack of commitment among coaches. SAI has 1,500 coaches with 300 posts lying vacant. Britain produces 3,500 coaches every year out which many do it voluntary," said Thomson.

Thomson also observed that not enough is being done in the grassroot level.

"Most federations have no clear cut plans for the youngsters. People in charge of youth development have been found wanting," remarked Thomson.

Ramakrishnan too said that youngsters needed to be exposed early and pointed out that SportsMentor in collaboration with Association of Schools for Indian School Certificate (ASICS) were determined to unearth and nuture sporting talent in India.

"Our aim is to expose youngsters to Olympic level participation and infrastructure. That is the reason we are launching RESPECT Championships for AISCS to help identify talent from over 90 locations in the country," said Ramakrishnan.

IANS

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