(Written by Chaitanya Mukund)
“Sports is not just about games, it’s about the passion of playing and living every moment. And there cannot be a better place to celebrate this passion for sports with a tinge of literature than in a city that has the distinction of giving more international sportspersons to India than any other city,” said Chitranjan Agarwal, co-founder of PlayWrite, a sports literature festival, while talking about how he and former bureaucrat and author, Vivek Atray, decided to launch it three years ago.
The third edition of PlayWrite, on Saturday, saw a host of eminent sports personalities including Babita Phogat, Ajit Pal, Ashok Kumar, Joy Bhattacharya, Suman Sharma among others. Hockey Olympian and living legend Balbir Singh Senior, 95, created a buzz as he attended the function despite his health.
The first session saw Babita Phogat sharing her journey of becoming a wrestler, followed by Joy Bhattacharya who dwelt on the business aspect of sports. “For any sport to be financially feasible, it must be television friendly,” he declared.
The session on hockey and the politics involved in it drew a large audience as legends of the game like Ajitpal Singh, former Captain of World Cup winning hockey team, and Ashok Kumar, an Olympian and son of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand took the stage.
Talking about the game of hockey has changed over the years, Ashok Kumar said that the hockey they or Major Dhyan Chand played is not the same as the hockey being played today due to the introduction of an artificial turf. “Our grounds were uprooted and instead of grass, they covered them with cow-dung. They said, practice on this! This is how an astro-surf abroad would feel like,” said Kumar.
“I really feel sorry that we couldn’t maintain the great Indian hockey glory,” said an emotional Ajit Pal Singh.
True to the theme of this year’s edition, ‘Living the Olympic Dream’, the day-long event shed light on sports that are played in Olympics and how business support, societal support and passion, together can make this year of Olympics a year of celebration for the country.
A session was also devoted to frisbee, a relatively new sport. Chitranjan Agarwal spoke to Garima Rathore, captain of the bronze medal winning Indian Ultimate Frisbee team at the Asia Oceanic Ultimate and Guts Championship 2019, who explained various nuances of Ultimate Frisbee, a mix-gender sport that requires little equipment. “Ultimate Frisbee is actively being played by around 10,000 players in India from across 20 states. It’s a mix of rugby and football and will be included in the 2020 Olympics,” she said.
Another session on basketball called Slam Dunk included participants like Jeena PS, captain of the Indian women basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2019 SAF Games. She was joined by Suman Sharma, an international basketball player and India’s first basketball player to be awarded with an Arjuna Award. Conducted by Ritu Nichani, the session discussed issues like gender pay-disparity, and the need for proper indoor wooden basketball courts in every school instead of outdoor concrete ones etc.
A special session on athletic development (nature versus nurture) was also held featuring Shrikant Iyengar, an experienced physiotherapist and Dr Digpal Ranawat, director of the Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance centres with Sukhwant Basra, a senior sports journalist.
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