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A salute to the 10 Olympians who made it big

- Mary Kom and nine others bring glory to the region but sports infrastructure yet to be developed

Dec. 30: Even before M.C. Mary Kom boxed her way to a bronze medal at the London Olympics, there were 10 good reasons for the Northeast to celebrate — and to rejoice over the triumph of individual brilliance and enterprise over the almost regular bouts of unrest in one state or the other.

The reasons were Magnificent Mary herself and her nine other co-participants at the Games — boxers L. Devendro Singh, Shiva Thapa, archers Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar, L Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro, hockey player Kathajit Singh, tennis player Somdev Devvarman and weightlifter Ngangbam Soniya Chanu.

Five came from Manipur, two from Assam and one each from Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland.

The region had hit a Perfect 10 even if the end result was a solitary bronze, which in the overall context was worth its weight in gold. It made the region sit up and discuss sports and that there is life in sports other than cricket, which is apparently not heading anywhere in the region.

The Olympic bronze not only made Mary Kom a household name but also saw unthinkable rewards pour in — cash, endorsements and recognition. She will also be immortalised on celluloid.

The other participants also received cash and recognition from their respective governments and the DoNER ministry. While Mary Kom was promoted to additional superintendent of police by the Manipur government, Swuro was promoted to deputy SP by the Nagaland government. More than anything, Magnificent Mary brought home hope and inspired aspiring boxers across the country.

The SAI, which is instrumental in grooming most of the Olympic sports trainees from the region, has started getting maximum requests from guardians to get their wards inducted into boxing after Mary Kom’s feat, claimed Sports Authority of India Guwahati centre director Subhash Basumatary. “If the trend persists, the induction tests we hold will become very competitive in a year or two,” he added.

Though they returned empty handed, teenagers L. Devendro Singh of Manipur and Shiva Thapa of Assam also made boxing a much-sought after sport in a region that is rich in contact sports talent.

There were two others who made it to London.

Pinky Karmakar, a Class XI student of Borborooah Girls’ High School in Dibrugarh district of Assam, made the country proud by being the only Indian representative from 20 countries in the Olympics torch relay from 20 countries at Nottinghamshire on June 28. Hers was no small feat.

Pinky is the youngest among five daughters and a son of Rajen and Leela Karmakar who work as sub-staff and tea plucker respectively at the Borborooah tea estate, a garden of the Assam Company India Ltd.

The other was a Meghalaya Civil Service officer who was selected to be an international judge for archery for the Games.

Matsiewdor War Nongbri, former director of the state directorate of sports and youth affairs, was chosen by the World Archery Federation for the event.

Nongbri qualified as an international judge after clearing examinations in Seoul, South Korea in 1994. Since then she has officiated at several international events.

With the highest number of representation from the region, the Olympic movement has definitely gained momentum post-London.

But a lot needs to be done and in right earnest to produce the next generation of Marys and Jayantas and Chanus — and swiftly at that, with Manipur and Assam taking the lead, more so Assam.

For, unlike Manipur, where sports is next to religion, Assam, a state from where the second highest number of players come, still lags with regard to promoting sports professionally.

It has almost been six years since the 33rd National Games were held in Guwahati and the world class infrastructure created for it remains unutilised owing to the apparent lack of interest on the part of the Assam Olympic Association and Dispur.

Even the infrastructure got a facelift only because of the flag down of the India-Asean Car Rally and the business summit that followed in Guwahati but sadly the track was “damaged” by use of cars and mobikes during the function to mark the occasion.

AOA president and chief minister Tarun Gogoi is yet to fulfil his promise of rewarding the Jharkhand National Games medallists even after nearly two years.

Though the government had ceremonially distributed cash rewards among the medallists, the funds belonged to the NEC, which had released its rewards early this year.

This kind of indifference has to go — but this should not stop us from raising a toast to the Northeast’s Top 10!