25 February 2020
Bhubaneswar: Former India hockey player Deepak Thakur believes the Khelo India initiatives by the government will propel sports to the next level, even transform the country into a global powerhouse in the not too distant future.
Deepak, who is at the Khelo India University Games 2020 as a talent scout, said, "It is a great initiative by the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Authority of India. It is very important to create a sporting culture for people of all age groups.
"It should have begun a long time ago but I'm happy it is happening now. I have been here for the past few days as a talent scout, and the atmosphere and the facilities are very similar to what we get at the Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games. This will spur a number of youngsters to set greater targets. If this continues, India will become a huge sporting nation soon."
Talking about the standards at the Khelo India University Games 2020, and how sport has evolved over the years, the 39-year-old said, "I got to watch most of the disciplines here, and the standards that the athletes are displaying are really high. It has improved a lot over the years and it makes you feel jealous because when I was playing, we did not have these opportunities. Times have changed for the good."
"We were in a meeting with the Sports Ministry on Sunday and I can say that the Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju is very positive. The vision that he has for sports in our country will take Indian sport to the higher level. When you know that your government is supporting you, as an athlete, you obviously want to push yourself and give more. The reason that cricket has developed so much is because they have improved the grassroots structure," added the former India player.
Deepak also added that any youngster who is deserving at the Games will get help from the government. "I'm also a coach at the Khelo India Hockey Academy in Chandigarh. Some of the youngsters who are selected over here will go for screening in the national camps, and whoever is deserving will make it to the next level and hopefully represent India some day. In a recent meeting with the Sports Ministry, we have also discussed about the prospect of getting in touch with former Olympians, and avail their services to help develop the grassroots programme," he revealed.
Asked if the Khelo India University Games 2020 would help find more Olympians from the country, Deepak said, "It is not about finding Olympians in our country anymore, that era is over. It is about finding medallists. I'm very sure the hockey team will win a medal at the next Olympics. I'm confident about this because so much development has happened over the years."