Northeast India and sports have always been closely associated. The northeast states are home to some of India’s most recognized and celebrated international players. Boxing champion M.C. Mary Kom, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, footballer Baichung Bhutia, and boxer L. Sarita Devi, are just some of the few names, the list is very long.
WAIT! Isn’t it surprising that a region that accounts for just 3.6% of the total Indian population, had around 7% of sportspersons in the Indian Olympic team of 2016? On this National Sports Day, let’s look at how northeast India managed to create so many feathers for our sporting crown! But first, let’s have a look at those northeast Indian sportspersons who made us proud at the commonwealth games 2022!
ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2022
This year also Northeast has made India proud at Birmingham. Four of India’s first eight medals in the Commonwealth Games have come from athletes from the Northeast.
SAIKHOM MIRABAI CHANU
Silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu took the world by storm again. She created a CWG record and gave India its first Gold in the Commonwealth Games. Mirabai lifted a total of 201 kg-88 kg in snatch and 113 kg in clean and jerk-to create a new Commonwealth Games record as well as her own personal best. In the clean and jerk, she lifted more than twice her body weight (109kg, 113kg), in which she holds the world record of 119kg.
A new star emerged from the Mizoram state of northeast India. 19-year-old Jeremy Lalrinnunga bagged the second gold for India with a total lift of 300 Kg in Men’s 67 Kg Weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games. Despite an injury during the event, his self-determination helped him create history. He started with a lift of 136kg which he bettered by successfully lifting 140kgs in his next try – a record in the Games. He then in the clean and jerk category lifted 160kg, finishing with a combined 300kg – another record.
BINDYARANI SOROKHAIBAM DEVI
Weightlifter Bindyarani Devi bagged a silver in the women’s 55 kg final. The 23-year-old from Manipur of Northeast India lifted a total of 202 kgs, narrowly missing out on Nigerian Olarinoye’s gold by a sole kilogram. With her impressive lift of 116kg, Bindyarani also managed a personal best, national record, and Commonwealth Games record in Clean & Jerk.
SUSHILA DEVI LIKMABA
India’s Judo player Sushila Devi made the nation proud as she won the silver medal in the Women’s 48 kg category. Although the 27-year-old lost to South Africa’s Michaela Whitebooi, Devi bagged a silver medal. This was the second silver medal for Sushila. She had already won at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. With this medal, India’s silver medal tally reached three.
Lawn Bowls player Nayanmoni Saikia became the apple of all eyes after her victory. The Indian women’s lawn bowls team won the historic gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham today. She was part of the Indian team which clinched maiden gold for the country in the Commonwealth Games. It is the second occasion when an athlete from Northeast state of Assam won a medal in the Commonwealth Games. From Forest Guard to a CWG Gold Medalist, the struggle of Nayanmoni Saikia is inspiring.
CULTURE OF SPORTS IN NORTHEAST INDIA
The northeast states have a long history of sports. And this was despite the challenging conditions and lack of a proper environment. Dingko Singh and Kunjarani Devi were flag bearers in the 1990s. They were followed by Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, and Lovlina Borgohain in boxing, Mirabai Chanu, Bindyarani Devi, and Sushila Devi in judo, and Jeremy Lalrinnunga in weightlifting.
Children from the northeast states are motivated to participate in sports from a very young age. The opinion of the people in Northeast India is that physical education should be compulsory in schools and colleges. They believe that sports lead to overall development. This is different from other states in the country where sports and games are deemed to be a waste of time.
Medal winning Sportspersons from northeast have given back to their communities by inspiring and supporting young talents from their native places. Mary Kom started a “Regional Boxing Foundation”. The foundation provides free coaching to athletes along with free lodging and food and covers additional expenses involved during competitions. Similarly, Bhaichung Bhutia, after his international success, opened Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Mumbai and Delhi.
PROBLEMS FACED BY NORTHEAST INDIAN SPORTSPERSONS
Things have not come easy for Northeast Indians. Playing sports is an opportunity to get a better life and future for themselves and their families. It is a lifeline. Sportspeople from Northeast India and other remote areas of the country have been very open about the bias against them. They have to fight the constant misconception that they are the ‘outsiders’ in their own country. Today all of India has showered praises on various sports personalities from Northeast India. This is due to the laurels they received in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
Despite the lack of facilities and infrastructure the sportsperson have never let any of this dampen their spirits. They continue to work hard and bring laurels to the country. Although the allocation of funds for Northeast Indian states from the sports ministry has been inadequate, there is some improvement in recent years. In the 2017 Sports budget, the allocation for the scheme for the Benefit of the Northeast Area has been revised to approximately Rs.148 crore as compared to INR 130 crore in the previous year.
We are looking forward to an even bright future of Northeast India and its budding sportpersons!