CHENNAI: Despite being only a district-level meet, the junior athletics championship — organised by Chennai District Athletic Association at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium — has some glitz and glamour going for it. To celebrate the event’s golden jubilee, the tournament was conducted under floodlights; a rarity for such events.
The inaugural ceremony was entertaining, with dance and other art forms on display. But in the middle of all the noise, one couldn’t help but notice the amount of participants lined up for the two-day event. As they marched onto the track in small groups, all athletes leading them were holding different flags of sports clubs. While club culture is evident and popular in other sporting disciplines, it was refreshing to see so many of them in athletics.
Veteran coach M Riyaz feels that this is why athletics is thriving in Chennai. Riyaz also revealed that the number of participants has increased because of this. “Chennai has always had this culture. But it has certainly increased in the last few years. You don’t see this in disciplines like athletics. Schools and colleges these days are also putting in place tie-ups with these clubs making it easy for us to spot talent,” he explained. Despite mild showers, the participants and clubs present at the venue showed no signs of slowing down. With multiple events happening at the same time, everyone was busy.
Tamil Nadu Athletics Association secretary C Latha said that the work done by these clubs for athletics in Chennai and Tamil Nadu is often not spoken about. With minimal budgets, they manage to help kids from different age groups and backgrounds. “Currently, there are 40 such clubs registered under Chennai district alone. They have all produced medal-winners. Imagine what can be done if more of these clubs are encouraged throughout the state.”