GUNTUR: On a windy and pleasant evening, Sharath, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) team’s manager was all smiles. His team had just qualified for the relay finals of the 57th National Inter-state Senior Athletics Championships.
Indulging in small talk, he opened up on the situation back home. “Athletics is not very popular in our state. People are more interested in football. So whomsoever you meet will call himself one.” he said with a twinkle in his eye. That look, though, changed when he started talking about the political turmoil back home. “It affects us all. Stadiums in Kashmir are closed most of the time due to either the political scenario or the weather. That’s not the case in Jammu, as people train almost throughout the year.”
Reham Ali, a shot put thrower hailing from Jammu, weighed in on the issue as well. “Jammu isn’t affected much. It is only Kashmir. But, huge protests and unrest do affect us. Even under such conditions, we try and practice. “We have a grass turf in Jammu, whereas Kashmir lacks that too. We have been pleading with the government and the association to construct a synthetic turf. The latter told us that they were going to construct one, but we still don’t know when.”
Speaking on infrastructural development in his state, Sharath said, “The Central Government had sanctioned `200 crore for that, but it hasn’t been utilised properly. We haven’t seen much, be it synthetic turfs, hostels or something as simple as a ground where kids can practice.” Sharath also felt that his team had scope for development, in terms of performance. “I am personally not that happy. It was satisfactory, but not great.”
Currently, Reham is juggling both his training and pursuit of graduation. “I wish to finish my graduation and then work. Hopefully I can keep continuing being a part of shot put after getting a job,” he said. “I also wish to represent India someday, maybe in the next season.”