Kerala emerged as the overall winner for the 19th consecutive time in recently concluded 61st National School Athletic Championship 2016 held in Kozhikode, Kerala.
The sports meet conducted at the Olympian Rahman Stadium at Medical College from January 29 to February 2, witnessed hundreds of students from various schools taking part in the event and notable performances by many young athletes. Maharashtra who were initially supposed to host the event, had plans to conduct the meet separately for boys and girls. But former athletes from Kerala including P T Usha and Anju Bobby George had opposed the move citing it as gender discrimination leading to Maharashtra’s withdrawal from hosting the meet. Following the uncertainty, Kerala had come forward expressing willingness to host the sports meet for the ‘benefit of the athletes’. The state successfully hosted the event utilizing the best possible facilities and the latest technologies in a short span of time much to the astonishment and praise of the visiting teams and authorities. The triumph established not just Kerala’s sports talent but also the state’s organizational expertise. The host won 306 points securing 39 gold, 29 silver and 17 bronze medals. Glimpses of several promising athletes were seen during the five day meet. As many as 22 records were rewritten on the tracks and on the fields out of which 10 were set by the host athletes alone.
While Abitha Mary Manuel and Anumol Thampi set records in senior and junior girls 1500m run, Lisbeth Caroline Joseph won in long jump. Maria Jaison broke her own record in senior girl’s pole vault event and K S Anandhu improved his, in the junior boy's high jump event. Daiby Sebastian who made her mark in hurdles and Aparna Roy are among Kerala’s promising athletes of future. Among the athletes from other states, Tejaswin Shankar, an aspiring athlete from Delhi who found his place in India’s senior team and Bamane Thai from Maharashtra also grabbed attention. Despite all the success factors and achievements, there are still aspects that trigger anxiety to the state. The host lagged behind in throw- items and failed to secure even one gold medal in sprint arena. It also received a setback in relay. The gold medal bagged by Megha Mariam Mathew in short put amidst the reign of the North Indians, is worth laudable. The promising young athletes who emerge triumphant during the meet are hardly seen after the event. Indulekha who dominated the sports event in Kochi earlier when Kerala hosted the national sports meet for the last time, wasn’t in the picture. Succumbing to injuries and failing to get adequate medical treatment, she retreated from the sports field and is currently working in a private company in Kochi far away from the limelight.
There are so many such talents who disappeared into forgetfulness. They would remain with us as the pride of the nation only if they are provided with scientific and expert training, best possible basic facilities and necessary care and consideration. Otherwise, these athletes would be reduced to a mere goal of getting grace marks in examinations and an employment to earn a living. No school meets have passed without the controversies related to the age factor. It was repeated in Kozhikode as well. The young athletes from Kerala had to compete with their so called ‘counterparts’ from other states in Sub Junior sections. The team selection also triggered hullabaloo. As hosts, Kerala could have given opportunities to more students. But selecting the team on the basis of eligibility marks eliminated the participation of the state athletes in 21 items. The argument that the future athletes should have given opportunities to acquire at least more practice should have been admitted. This denial of opportunities takes place when the athletes from other states put up very poor performances in hurdles and relay. The national School Games Federation should initiate steps to ensure the quality of the national sports meet. The uncertainties over the fate of the sports meet with no state willing to host the event shouldn’t occur again. The future athletes of the nation would emerge only from such sports events. As far as the Indian athletes are concerned, their only dream is participation. Therefore such championships should aim at bringing out the best performances from these aspiring young athletes.