Gold medallist India's Parul Chaudhary celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's 5,000m final athletics event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 3, 2023. Image: Hector Retmal / AFP
There were 13 athletes from Uttar Pradesh who represented India at the Asian Games that concluded in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday. Six of these athletes hail from Meerut district, and four have won five medals, including two golds.
Parul Chaudhary hails from Iklauta village in Meerut district. She won a gold and a silver medal in the 5000m and the 3000m steeplechase. Annu Rani, a resident of Bahadurpur village of Meerut, won the gold in javelin throw. Gulveer Singh and Kiran Baliyan, who secured bronzes in long-distance running and shot put, respectively, are also closely associated with Meerut.
The athletes were trained by the District Athletics Association of Meerut. Every district of Uttar Pradesh has its District Athletics Association. Still, Meerut stands out for its training and development programs, and most of the neighbouring district's athletes also come to Meerut for training.
"The difference between District Athletics Association Meerut and other district associations is the hard work of administration and coaches and zeal to succeed. We help the young athletes at a personal level without ever receiving a single penny in aid from the government", says Anu Kumar, secretary of the District Athletics Association Meerut.
Seven years ago, the District Athletics Association of Meerut took a new approach to promote sports in the district. It decided to tie up with the private sports academies and provide their players certificates of participation and necessary funds to the academies. Now, there are 12 sports academies affiliated with the District Athletics Association, which trains about 650 players.
The Association and its affiliated private academies are open to athletes aged 8 to 19. Academies charge an athlete from Rs200 to 500 per month. All athletes from the Association and private academies are eligible to participate in the district and state athletic championships.
Meerut trains sportspersons at the Kailash Prakash Stadium, but it is in ruins due to negligence by the authorities. In the unavailability of facilities at the stadium, the Association looked for other options to train their athletes. Gold medallist India's Annu Rani celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's javelin throw final athletics event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 3, 2023. Image: William West / AFP
Anu Kumar says, "The Association now trains its players at MP Singh Sports Academy, which Delhi Public School owns, as it has better indoor and outdoor sports facilities. We have two coaches who train about 60 players. We have our website, where we provide updates on the upcoming sports events, results, and certificates of participation in the districts and states. We also have an online portal for admission in the academies for monitoring and transparency".
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The District Athletics Association of Meerut is affiliated with the Uttar Pradesh Athletics Association and Athletics Federation of India. Despite producing the best athletes in the state, it struggles to get government funds.
"We do not receive any aid from the government. The Association organises its fundraising programs and sponsorships to sustain. Management does not get any salary from the Association. I am in it for the betterment of athletics in the district and honour,” says Kumar, a former international long jump athlete himself.