Despite sending one of its largest ever contingents to the Rio Olympics, India could not perform as well as expected at the Games. Some reports claimed that this was due to a lack of funds and good training programmes. But there is one Bangalore based organisation called Athlete Socorre that is attempting to change this dismal scenario by providing athletes with skills to become successful sportspersons and Olympians.
Anirban Chakraborty, the CEO of the organization, says there are more than 1.25 billion people in India under the age of 25. And even though India has such immense potential in sports, not many of them take up sporting careers because of the lack of financial stability.
Athlete Socorre is trying to change this by identifying skilled athletes and facilitating their entry into international competitions.
Says Anirban,“ We launched an initiative called Aim for Gold, where we support athletes from every league and we attend to every need that they have – from psychological support to making sponsorship deals. We also scout for fresh talent. P.T Usha is one of the advisors on our team. With this initiative, we hope to back numerous budding athletes so they’ll be able to get more medals for India in the 2020 Olympics at Tokyo.”
The intention behind the Aim for Medal project is to take care of all the needs of potential Olympians – it exposes them to established coaches, provides mentorship programs with famous athletes, and dispenses information about nutrition, recovery, physiological training, and sports psychology.
It also takes care of housing, training facilities, food, media training, and the transportation of athletes to various competitions as well as ceremonies.
The work that this organisation does is unique because it is one of the few in India that helps athletes build a career in sports. “If someone wants to pursue a career in sports management or sports, we prepare a profile for them and we approach corporates and other interested agencies. We have a lot of enquiries coming in from people who have a background in engineering and are interested in a career in sports. We also conduct conventions and exhibitions to raise awareness and expose people to the various fields in sports,” says Anirban.
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The conventions are 3-day events organized across major cities in India, where leading sportspersons, potential athletes and other interested parties are provided with a space to discuss how they can succeed in the sports industry. Here, researchers are allowed to present their papers on sports analytics, sports performance, medicine, and nutrition.
Exhibitions are offline marketing platforms where sports apparel and sports management companies can display their portfolios and products to prospective clients.
One talented athlete that the organisation supports is 21-year-old cyclist Deborah Herold. Deborah is from the Andaman and Nicobar islands and has faced many challenges. During the tsunami of 2004, she had to cling to a coconut tree for more than 24 hours in order to survive. Anirban says, “We were really inspired by her will and commitment. We soon found that nobody is supporting her, despite the fact that she won n number of medals for the country. At the recent cycling tournament in the Track Asia Cup, she won two golds and one silver medal.”
Deborah started cycling at the age of 16 and in five short years she has managed to be ranked at the 4th position in the world for the 500 metres track cycling event. Come November, she will represent India at the Union Cycliste Internationale World Track Cycling Championship.
Despite all her achievements, Deborah couldn’t apply for the Rio Olympics because of lack of proper funding. But soon, she was approached by Athlete Socorre: “We took the initiative to run a campaign to support her because according to experts, cycling is all about the aerodynamics of the actual machine – the cycle. She and her coach told the Athlete Socorre team that to perform better and at least qualify for the Olympics, she would require a better cycle.”
Apart from financial support and career counseling, Athlete Soccore also extends psychological support to the athletes through sports psychologists and mental health counselling. Anirban says, “Many of our Indian athletes couldn’t perform that well (in Rio) because they were under immense psychological stress. We need to remind them that there is external support for them if they require it. A lot of potential medal winners just buckle under the stress because you need both physical and mental strength to perform well.”
Speaking of the kind of hurdles that athletes face in competing and winning at the Olympics, Anirban says, “There is an initiative undertaken by the Government of India called the Top of the Podium. This initiative aims to provide some financial support to potential Olympians but the money reaches them very late and the process is very tedious. I spoke to some international Olympians and they can’t stress enough on providing athletes with some psychological support to help them perform on D-day. Our country has one of the best archers, Deepa Kumari, and despite this she couldn’t perform well in the Olympics because it is a very difficult competition, and stress levels are very high.”
To support Athlete Socorre in addressing the needs of potential Olympians in India and to help Deborah win that much coveted gold medal at Tokyo, donate here.