India’s contingent that would be participating at the Rio Olympics this August would have as many as 10 soldiers from the Indian Army— seven of them from Pune-based Army Sports Institute (ASI). Four long-distance walkers and three marathon runners from the institute are currently undergoing rigorous training at their respective camps before heading for the international training modules.
Under the Indian Army’s Mission Olympics, concerted efforts are being made to put up a good show from the Indian Army. Till now seven athletes — all from ASI — and three marksmen have qualified, and the Army expects more qualifications, including one in boxing.
Havildar Nitender Singh of 6 Kumaon Regiment, Naib Subedar Kheta Ram of 6 Jat Regiment and Havildar Gopi T of 11 Field Artillery Regiment would represent India in the marathons. In the walking competition, Havildar Sandeep Kumar of 16 Jat Regiment, Havildar Devender Singh of 2 Rajputana Rifles, Havildar Ganapathi K of 11 Madras Regiment and Havildar Irfan KT of 5 Madras Regiment are the Army’s medal hopefuls.
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In the London Olympics in 2012, seven personnel from the Indian Army, including four from ASI, had qualified. The overall tally not just went up to 10, but the number of ASI-trained soldiers also went up to seven. Two more ASI sportsmen likely to qualify are Subedar Devendro in boxing and Naib Sub Basant Bahadur Rana in long-distance walking. The ASI is presently commanded by Col PS Cheema and the Office In-Charge for the athletics division is Col Sameer Chaudhari. The coach for the walking team is Subedar Surender Singh Mavi and for the marathon team is Subedar Surender Kumar.
All the trainers and faculty members at ASI are themselves accomplished sportsmen, with some of them being ex-Olympians. The two coaches are currently with their players in their training camps at Bangalore and Ooty. The overall training of the sportsmen is being closely monitored from the office of Director General, Military Training, a post currently held by Lt Gen AL Chavan.
A faculty member from the ASI said, “We have a state-of-the-art Sports Medicine Centre that has experts to look after the physical, nutritional and psychological aspects of our athletes. Our men are groomed on all aspects. Nutritional requirements of the participants are regularly being monitored. The equipment and training aids are being upgraded. Their performance and fitness parameters are being monitored so that they are able to match up to international standards. Armymen have one advantage over others and that is their competitive spirit. We always try to build on this aspect,” the faculty member added.
The athletes would soon head for their training modules at facilities abroad to get an exposure to foreign players and their strategies.