Indian Army's Mission Olympics

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    Indian Army's Mission Olympics

    The Indian Army's sole role over the years has been guarding the country but now they have taken up another major role -- and that is to produce future Olympic champions.

    And one major sport, where the army is already making its presence felt is the sport of shooting.

    India's shooters have enjoyed a golden run at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi with as many as seven gold medals coming from the sport.

    The Indian Army has nine shooters from their ranks participating in the Delhi Games and they ended up with nine medals, including two silvers. The Army sportspersons excelled in other fields too like wrestling, archery and weightlifting among others.

    Vijay Kumar was the star athlete for the Indian Army as he won three gold medals and silver medal. He emerged triumphant in the 25 metres Rapid Fire Pistol event after he had combined with fellow Armyman Gurpreet Singh to claim gold in the same event in the Pairs category and the 25m centre fire pistol pairs.

    Vijay was quick to point out that had it not been for the Army, he would never have been a world class shooter that he is today.

    "Basically I am employed with the Indian Army. They are taking care of my armoury and they have also been training me plus I also have a personal coach. The federation, my family and the Army have played a big role in my gold medal. The shooting ranges that we have got for practice are world class ranges," the shooter told Rediff.com.

    Gurpreet also won the gold in the Pairs 10m Air Pistol event with Omkar Singh.

    Imran Khan also proved his time spent at the Army academy in Mhow in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh had turned him into a world class shooter as he claimed the gold medal in the Pairs 50m Rifle 3 Position with ace shooter Gagan Narang .

    Imran wasted no time in dedicating his gold medal to the Indian Army for their contribution.

    "I want to dedicate my gold medal to the Army and SAI because for the last two years they have given me everything I could ask for," he told Rediff.com.

    Imran revealed how since joining the Army in 2000, life took a drastic turn.

    "I joined the Army in 2000. The moment I joined I was called up the Army Institute in Mhow, where my life took a new turn. Before that, I could never think of taking up shooting because I didn't have the money to buy the equipments needed," he added.

    The ace marksman revealed how he nearly gave up shooting due to lack of funding, before the Army provided him with a lifeline.

    "I used to shoot with a very old pistol in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and then I didn't have the required facilities and coaching so my career never went forward then. But after joining the Army, they gave me everything including practice facilities, new weapons, and money so that changed my life and career completely.

    I had joined the Army basically for a living but then I saw they were encouraging sports so I took up shooting and after that things happened instantly. I underwent nine-month training in the Army before I took up sports. We had good coaches who helped us a lot and we also worked hard so we started improving rapidly," Imran added.

    Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali revealed that the Indian Army had invested heavily in the shooters and the results were showing.
    "I think the performance of the army shooting team has been exceptionally good. It is because of the unstinted training and support that we have given to our shooters. We have the Mission Olympics going and at Mhow we have the Army Marksman Unit. All our shooters are in constant upgradation in terms of equipment, facilities and motivation and I think it is a matter of pride for the Indian Army that each year we represent our shooters at national level and international level and the performance has been exceptionally outstanding," Halgali said.

    Halgali, who is also the director general of military training, gave out more details on the Indian Army's sport-specific programme called the Mission Olympics.

    "Mission Olympics is an event that the Indian Army has been engaged in where in we choose the youngest of our soldiers. We catch them young from various places and bring them to these five nodes that we have in the Army and in each node we train them with the state of the art equipment. We continuously give them facilities and promote them in sports and the results are before you now.
    We start with age group of 14 years and then we bring them up till 20 years so it is six years of hard practice that we give to the youngsters. The Mission Olympics wing has brought outstanding results for our country. It started a couple of years ago," Halgali added.

    Captain Srinivas Rao, who is the officer-in-charge for the Mission Olympics, also gave out a few more details on the programme.
    "It is a very important as far as the Indian Army is concerned because we are looking to produce Olympic champions.

    "We provide training in every kind of sports and we have some of the best coaches from India and abroad. The shooters train at the shooting ranges in Mhow, while sports like athletics, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, diving and archery are trained in the Army Sports Institute in Pune.

    He further pointed out that the Mission Olympics started in 2001 but it was fully functional by 2005 and since then a lot of athletes have come and improved their skill at the different venues.

    The Army Sports Institute website also throws light on what exactly is the programme and how it is looking to produce future champions.
    "India appears to have all the advantages required for sporting excellence- a billion strong population, varied genetic make up and an aptitude to excel. Inspite of this, India's showing on the Olympics Medal tally has been rather dismal. The Chief of Army Staff conceived the "Mission Olympics Programme" to correct this anomaly and decided to tap the vast and varied talent pool, physical fitness, dedication and discipline of the Army. A panel of experts identified eleven sports on which to focus and excel.

    The Army Sports Institute is a unique, multi-disciplinary Sports Institute. It provides world class training infrastructure, internationally renowned foreign and Indian coaches, the best equipment and excellent boarding and lodging facilities rounded off by comprehensive Sports Sciences back up. The Army Sports Institute endeavors to be the best sports training facility in the country and is the destination of choice for a sportsman with the ability and dedication to win an Olympic Medal," it reads when you go to the website (Army Sports Institute:about ASI).

    Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore showed that the Army is capable of producing Olympic champions with his silver medal at Athens in 2004. And one is sure that in the next Games in London in 2012 and in the ones after that, the Army's contribution would definitely reap some fruit.

    A look at the medal winners from the Indian Army at 2010 Commonwealth Games:

    Archery (2 silver, 1 bronze)
    Sports cadet Jignesh Chittiboma – 1 silver
    Havaldar Chinna Raju Srither – 1 silver
    Subedar Tarundeep Roy – 1 bronze
    Athletics (2 bronze)
    Hawaldar Kashinath Naik - 1 bronze
    Hawaldar Harminder Singh - 1 bronze
    Boxing (No medals)
    Shooting (7 gold, 2 silver)
    Subedar Vijay Kumar – 3 golds, 1 silver
    Subedar Imran Khan – 1 gold
    Havaldar Gurpreet Singh – 2 golds, 1 silver
    Subedar Vijay Kumar – 1 gold
    Weightlifting (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
    Havaldar Ravi Kumar – 1 gold
    Havaldar Sukhen Dey – 1 silver
    Havaldar VS Rao – 1 bronze
    Wrestling (2 silver)
    Subedar Manoj Kumar – 1 silver
    Havaldar Sunil Kumar – 1 silver

    Indian Army's Mission Olympics - Rediff.com Sports
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