Pratima Pandey is a 7 times State Champion for Weight Lifting in Odisha. She won a silver medal in Senior National Championship and a gold medal in Junior National Championship. And she spoke to HotFridayTalks about why sports is neglected in our country.
Born in a middle class family, Pratima feels she was fortunate to be allowed to pursue her passion, only because her father was a body builder. She began her sports career on track events as an athlete. She says, “One day people from the Weight Lifting Federation came home, and asked my father that he should consider training me for Weight Lifting. It was a tough decision for my father. He knew it would be difficult to maintain the required diet for me. And the training would also not be cheap. But he decided to go along with their suggestion, but my two younger sisters were removed from their sports training.”
Pratima won the Junior National Championship in 1997, and since then she has not looked back. She had a flourishing career in sports, and even got selected for a job in Central Industrial Security Force as an Assistant Sub-Inspector.
But it was not an easy journey. She says, “Those were not the days when you could break barriers. Feminism was not the trending thing then. There was a negative atmosphere for girls who wanted to follow sports. Even my parents were anxious for me. It was only because my father was a sportsperson, that he did not discriminate among genders. But I am sure many girls submitted to their unfortunate destiny with no support.”
Pratima feels that sports is relegated to the back benches in our school. The Sports Quota is the only support. There are no incentives at any level, from family, school, college or government. She says, “There is no financial support, no infrastructure and no coaches for anyone who wants to seriously pursue sports since an early age. Only when you become famous, you get recognition for your hard work and talent. But there is no support till you reach that stage.”
Pratima feels that when someone trains for a sport, it is not for them. It is a matter of pride for the country. She says, “Today so many students are burdened with comparison and competition. They need sports to remain physically and mentally fit. When I speak to youngsters today, I see so many cases of anxiety and depression, because they are under so much pressure to succeed. In this scenario, sports is very important for holistic well being.”
Pratima emphasis that sports should be encouraged in our country, and it is high time when parents, schools and authorities realise the urgent need to do this.