In the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, India put up a contingent of 215 sportspersons. Out of these, 42 were from Haryana and they won 20 medals out of the 61 the country bagged. Haryana sportspersons won 9 gold, 5 silver, and 6 bronze medals at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The state accounts for less than 2 percent of the country’s population.
The stats tell the story of Haryana’s domination of the Indian sports scene. Players from Haryana have been dominating every competition. Be it the National Games or at the International level, players from Haryana have got everyone’s attention with their performances.
Overall, more than 30 percent of India’s individual medals in its entire Olympic history have been bagged by sportspersons from the state. Apart from hockey, India have won 23 individual medals in the Olympics so far, with Haryana bagging seven of them.
This year in the Tokyo Olympics, India’s most successful campaign in the prestigious quadrangular marquee sports event, with the country bagging seven medals including a historic gold by Neeraj Chopra in the javelin throw.
India’s contingent for the Tokyo Olympics included 126 athletes, out of which 31 were from Haryana – nearly 25 percent of the total.
So, what makes Haryana such a success in sports? For the answer to this question, we have to go a little bit into the culture of Haryana.
Maha Singh Rao, a wrestler and wrestling coach from Chirawa, Rajasthan, who has associated with wrestlers like Olympic medal winners Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, has some different answers for this.
“The state’s domination in sports is somehow linked to the majority of its people’s collective preference for a robust physique that helps them work the fields under a sweltering sun, get jobs in the military, and indulge in sporting activities, more likely wrestling,’ he said.
“There is hardly any village or city in Haryana that does not have a sports academy. There are medal winners in sports in every village. This has created an atmosphere. And most important, players are getting unconditional support from the government. In Haryana, the government of any political party does not compromise in the matter of assisting the players. Haryana government gives jobs to the players. On winning the medal, it gives a reward of c”ores of rupees,” he said.
“Sushil Kumar is a two-time Olympic-winning wrestler from Haryana, whose bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics is credited for reviving enthusiasm for athletics in the state,” he reasoned.
Maha Singh said that the state, since then, has brought home medals for India in every Olympics, even though the country as a whole has had little success.
Sport has always been an integral part of rural Haryana, where grapplers compete for prizes that range from a fistful of cash to a pot of ghee to nothing but village pride. It has created an atmosphere for sports culture. Almost every district has boxing and wrestling training centres. And then, locally organised dangals which provide fodder for future wrestlers. These rustic rings produced some of India’s best wrestlers, including the Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Phogat sisters, whose life and success spawned the 2016 Bollywood biographical blockbuster Dangal.
“After Tokyo, Neeraj Chopra became an overnight sensation and I am sure he has already inspired many young Haryana kids to take up the javelin,” Maha Singh Rao said.
Recently Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar felicitated Commonwealth Wames medal-winning sportspersons in Chandigarh and said that medal-winning sportspersons needed to go beyond winning individual medals and inspire others so that one medal could yield another five.