Bhopal, Jan 29 (IANS): Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), an initiative of the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to give a fillip to grassroots sports, has become a springboard to nurture future champions.
In the last three editions, more than 17,000 young athletes from across the country have competed in various sports disciplines, including track and field. Several youngsters have also graduated to the senior level and is on the right track to achieving the 2024 Paris Olympic Games qualification standards in their respective disciplines.
For instance, Haryana's promising teenage wrestler Antim Panghal, who made rapid progress since winning gold at the 2021 KIYG edition held in Panchkula. The following year, she scripted history to become the first Indian to win gold in her weight category at the World U20 Women's Wrestling Championship.
"Panchkula games in 2019 was a turning point in Antim's sporting career. She announced her arrival on the national scene by winning gold in her respective weight category. Since then she hasn't looked back," Jitendra Yadav, chief national women's wrestling coach said.
The KIYG in Panchkula gave Antim a chance to showcase her talent. By virtue of winning gold in her weight group, she became eligible for a monthly scholarship of Rs 10,000. Currently, the international wrestler from Hisar in Haryana is funded by Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
"The Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula acted as a catalyst for Antim. Since then she has moved ahead step by step," the wrestling coach added. "We are hopeful Antim will cut the Paris Olympic Games during the 2023 World Wrestling Championships."
India's 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games 67kg champion in weightlifting Jeremy Lalrinnunga, multiple international medal winner in pistol shooting Manu Bhaker and swimmer Apeksha Fernandes are amongst several rising Indian stars who have used the KIYG platform to catapult their careers to a higher trajectory.
The first edition of the Khelo India School Games was held in 2018, while the second edition of the grassroots project in 2019 was renamed as "Khelo India Youth Games".
This edition in Madhya Pradesh from January 30 to February 11 is expected to attract over 5,000 young athletes from across the country. The competition will be held in 27 disciplines, including athletics, archery and rowing, among others.
According to Sanjay Garnaik, chief athletics coach of the Madhya Pradesh athletics academy, Khelo India is attracting big numbers and it will certainly contribute to the sporting ecosystem in the country. "The athletes are getting good facilities during the Khelo India Games," he added.
Water sports events are being introduced in the KIYG and there are lots of excitement among the local athletes as Bhopal is home to a state-run Rowing academy.