by Sudipta Biswas

World’s largest democracy India is celebrating National Sports Day today, 29th August, to remember the hockey legend Dhyan Chand Singh who was born on this day. 

Dhyan Chand is arguably the greatest ever hockey player the world has ever had. He won India three Olympic gold medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics. Today is his 115th birth anniversary.

In 2012 the Indian government first took the initiative to declare Dhyan Chand birthday as National Sports Day.

There is a solid objective behind dedicating a day to sports in the national calendar. National Sports Day is celebrated in every nook and corner of the country to commemorate the spirit of sportsmanship and to propagate the message of the benefits of playing sports. Many states also run talent hunt programmes to find out future stars.

In a nutshell, National Sports Day is an occasion to take a pledge to build India an active sports playing nation from a passive sports-loving country.

The theme of National Sports Day 2019 is ‘Fit India, Young India’.

So, on this pious occasion, Sudipta Biswas talked to Sudeep Satpathy, International Sports Medicine Physician, who is currently working with Badminton World Federation (BWF) as tournament doctor for A1 events, sponsored by badminton’s world governing body.

Mr. Satpathy spoke on range of subjects from the benefits of playing sports to the Indian education system and from NADA’s NDTL to BWF World Championships gold medallist PV Sindhu.

Excerpts…. 

Why playing sports is important? 

Answer: Benefit of playing sports in immense. It helps us in many ways. Playing sports not only helps us to stay fit but it instills the confidence of countering a difficult situation in life.

Playing sports keep a nation healthy and instill a positive mindset.

Should sports not be an integral part of school and university education curriculum?

Answer: Sport is an area where the leadership characteristics of students often come in the notice. Wining matches from an improbable situation and encountering a difficult situation in a match helps them to get a life lesson and make them physically and mentally stronger. The same lesson comes to their rescue as they grow older as they know how to get themselves out of difficult situations.  To help our youngsters realise this much before they get into the tough professional world sports should be made an integral part of our education system.

Unlike the most successful country in the world the USA who is a force to reckon with in education and sports, India doesn’t have a solid infrastructure for sports. Most of the developed countries get their medallists from universities. But India is yet to accept it. Why? 

Answer: In developed countries, people don’t have a fear of not getting a job or losing it. There are ample opportunities for them. Hence, they don’t feel insecure. They pursue a degree and play professional sports at the same time because their system endorses their dream.

Moreover, if students have an international sporting event coming at the time of board or university exam they don’t need to hesitate between sports and education as their board and university organize a separate exam for athletes. This sports-friendly atmosphere encourages the best of their students to take up sports and excel in education at the same time.

Now, look at India, we are yet to build up such an atmosphere. Often our athletes have to wait for a year to sit in the exam because they don’t afford to miss an international meet. We often see our athletes taking years to complete a degree because our education system doesn’t encourage them to pursue a career in sports.

Meanwhile, India is an overcrowded country and we have a fear of not getting a job even being the best performer in school and colleges. It makes things complicated here.

So, it shows where is the difference between India and developed countries such as the USA and France who are outstanding both in education and sports.

Will the current Indian government make sports mandatory in its new education policy?

Answer: It seems the India current government has accelerated the process to make sports an integral part of our educational curriculum. Sports minister Kiren Rijiju is working tirelessly towards making India sports playing nation from sports-loving nation. However, it is too early to say such thing. But the current government’s education policy is likely to make sports mandatory in school and university education.

Why diseases like diabetes and heart attack are on rise India?

Answer: India is a busy country where nobody has time for physical activity. We are lazy and overstressed for several reasons. We know the benefits of playing sports but we hardly care about it. If we play sports or get involved in certain physical activity regularly we don’t have to struggle with life-threatening diseases like diabetes, heart attack or endocrine-related problems.

Both diabetes and heart attack are correlated and it occurs due to poor metabolism.

Can playing sports regularly keep people away from these diseases? Please shed light on it…

Answer: Yes, definitely. Playing a particular sport or getting involved in certain physical activity or exercise keeps us fit and help us to get rid of diabetes, heart and endocrine-related problems.

Now, look there is a difference between physical activity and exercise. Every move of our body is physical activity but it is not an exercise. In most of the cases, people don’t know to differentiate between physical activity and exercise. Exercise is what we repeat in a particular time frame and we do it regularly.

So, what will be the standard practice to be fit?

Answer: We must exercise at least four days in a week. 30 minutes of exercise in each of these days will keep us fit and healthy. We must take the notion of ‘health is wealth’ seriously because a healthy nation is always a wealthy nation.

PV Sindhu becomes first Indian to win World Championships gold. She dominated throughout the tournament. Her win in the semifinal and final has especially been colossal. Is she at the peak of her physical and mental fitness?

Answer: I am BWF’s tournament doctor. So, I have had the privilege to see PV Sindhu winning gold beating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in the 2019 World Championships final from a very close quarter in Basel. I have also seen her losing 2018 final in Nanjing to Spain’s Carolina Marin and finish with silver.

This time around I spotted that there is a sharp change in her approach to the game.

One of the main reasons behind her success, I believe, is she knew she had nothing to lose after failing to win two consecutive finals at the Worlds. She also lost to Okuhara in 2017 final. Hence, Sindhu was brave in her approach to the game and most importantly she enjoyed it. Injured Marin’s absence might have benefited her as well.

In 2018, she looked tired. But this time around, she prepared hard to win it and Okuhara had no answer to it.

How do you see her preparation in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

Answer: Though those who know Sindhu better would be able to make a better assessment of her performance, from my experience as a tournament doctor I would say she is at the peak of her career. She is mentally positive and fit. And taking full benefit of her strength- height. If she continues to train in the same vein and maintains her form she will have a golden chance to win gold in Tokyo.

 

You have also worked with Sports Authority of India which directly works with the National Anti Doping Agency. NADA’s National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) has recently been banned for six months. What led WADA to ban NDTL?

Answer: Actually, NADA didn’t adhere to WADA’s recommendations. It has been ignorant and tried to politicise the issue. Every nation strictly follows WADA’s anti-doping rule. Why should India not do the same? NADA doesn’t even have enough resource to take samples from athletes. There are not enough sports medicine doctors; as a result, urine collections don’t take place properly. Physiotherapists and officials are not expert in collecting samples but sports medicine doctors are, so now NADA is bearing the burnt.

Due to this poor method of sample collections and testing mechanism NDTL drew WADA’s wrath which ultimately led to its ban. WADA has given six months time to NADA to adhere to its rules to get rid of the ban. This time frame is well enough to implement WADA’s recommendations. NADA office-bearers must tighten their belt to put the world body’s rules into operation.

Could this ban affect athletes’ preparation?

Answer: No, Olympics is still a year away. But NADA must hire private testing laboratories for smooth testing until WADA withdraws the ban. At the same time, it must hire more doctors because NADA is the only body in India which is entitled to take care of dope testing in the country. As sports is itself a vast area with so many disciplines NADA has to hire thousands of doctors to make sure each sport and its disciplines get required attention.

 


 

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