ARMY SPORTS INSTITUTE: WINNING LAURELS FOR THE NATION
In this blog, Col. Sameer Khanna - part of the elite Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune and participant of the 2nd edition of ELMS - ABF High Performance Leadership Program, recalls some of his unforgettable experiences working at ASI and with the high-performance athletes and also shares insights on what makes ASI one of the best sports institutes in India for identifying & nurturing young talent across various sporting disciplines.
I have been associated with Army Sports Institute (ASI) since May 2019. Initially, I was not sure about my role and character of duties but as I spoke to the institute, it was amply clear that I had a job to do, and my hands were going to be full. Army Sports Institute – Pune, is part of the Indian Army’s “Mission Olympics” programme which was launched with the sole aim of winning medals in international events, including the Olympics in seven identified disciplines such as Athletics, Archery, Boxing, Diving, Fencing, Weightlifting, and Wrestling. The elite institute was raised on 01 July 2001. The ASI is a homogenous institute and along with the support of the Army, SAI, and MoYAS, it takes each competition as a challenge and trains hard to excel in them.
The institute draws its sportsmen from the Army as well as from young, raw, and proven talent in Boys Sports Companies (8-14). These sportsmen are supported by a team of foreign and Indian coaches, physical conditioners, specialists in sports medicine, physiologists, psychologists, biomechanists, statisticians, and nutritionists. In ASI the sportsmen have been the centre of gravity, and ‘Team ASI’ is constantly inspired by these human bodies endowed with discipline, dedication, determination, and devotion. Since raising, this institute has enabled the participation of thirty-three (33) sportsmen in the Olympics including thirteen (13) who participated in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics 2021. The institute has won one (01) Gold in Tokyo 2021, six (06) Youth Olympics medals, nineteen (19) in the Asian Games, and eighteen (18) at the Commonwealth Games. This continued success is being achieved by igniting the minds of the sportspersons to engage in thinking big, coupled with ownership, perseverance, and passion.
Achievements of sportspersons from ASI: -
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Thirteen (13) sportsmen qualified from ASI Sports disciplines (Athletics-07, Boxing-03, Archery-02 & Wrestling-01) for Tokyo Olympics 2021. The sportsmen delivered one Gold (Javelin), one Asian games record (4 x 400 mtr Men’s relay), and one national record (3000 mtr Steeplechase).
National Camps: National Camps for u/m Olympics bound teams were held at ASI
Archery: The National Men & Women Archery team secured three individual men, team (Men), one individual (Women) and mixed team.
Boxing: Women National Boxing Coaching Camp for four Olympic bound boxers including MC Mary Kom.
Athletics: National Camps for two Olympic qualified Javelin throwers (Men & Women)
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar (RKPP): ASI has been identified and awarded the RKPP 2020. This award has been conferred on ASI for “Identified & Nurturing the Budding and Young Talent”.
300 bedded Hostel: Construction of a three hundred bedded hostel has been sanctioned by MoYAS at ASI. This will help in accommodating the sportsmen in a big way.
Boys Sports Company (BSC): The BSC at ASI acts as a feeder conduit and conveyer belt to ASI. It was raised on 01 Jan 2006 and has produced six Youth Olympic medallists and five Olympians.
Khelo India Talent (KIT): ASI has been identified as one of the accredited academies to promote sports as part of MoYAS long term vision plan of securing a podium finish in 2024 and 2028 Olympics. The institute trains athletes in six sports disciplines amongst 49 KIT academies. A total of 115 KIT are presently undergoing training at ASI.
Awards for outstanding contribution: Sub Tarundeep Rai was awarded the prestigious Padamshri and Nb Sub Manish Kaushik was awarded the Arjuna Award 2020.
31 Junior sportsmen of ASI are in the Junior Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) which was announced by MoYAS recently.
The Prime Minister’s Task Force stated that it had no hesitation in saying that the facilities at ASI, Pune outclass the facilities, systems, and manpower at most other sporting institutions in the country. The service of expert coaches, support staff of ASI should be utilised more in National Camps and tournaments. The training philosophy at the institute remains sports specific, scientific, individualist, focused, continuous monitoring, result-oriented, progressive, and accountable. The graph of ASI is getting better and will only improve in future competitions and championships as well.
Onwards & upwards - Team ASI is a dynamic mix of champions in the making!
Sub Siddharth Pardeshi (Diving) is a BSC product who joined BSC ASI at a very young age. He is a very dedicated, motivated, and hard-working diver. He has performed at international and national level competitions to include CWG and Asian games. He was the only hope for the country in Diving at Tokyo (10 mtr Platform). ASI took the responsibility and onus of his performance at the World Championships in Tokyo which were also the Olympic qualifiers in 2021. His qualification would have created history and a lot to emulate for the diving fraternity. ASI pushed his case for participation with SFI and SAI through MOW. Since the process would take time, it was ASI that sent him for the qualifiers. He did not qualify but gained tremendous confidence and boost for doing well in future competitions.
Sub Manish Kaushik (Boxing) on being injured came back to ASI for rehabilitation, recovery and getting back into the ring. The boxer was well supported by the staff and the sports science team took it as a challenge to get him back into the ring. The boxer had already qualified for the Olympics by clinching a bronze in the world championships. The efforts put in by the support staff and coaches were commendable in seeing him back and winning a Gold in a major competition just prior to Olympics. Manish unfortunately lost by a split decision at Tokyo.
Unforgettable days, unmatched opportunities
At ASI, I was involved and in charge of looking after training of the sportsmen as my primary task, in addition to that, I was also entrusted with the responsibility to look after Diving, Boys Sports Company, and Khelo India.
I was given the opportunity to attend the High-Performance Leadership Programme conducted by ELMS in collaboration with the Abhinav Bindra foundation and it has really helped give a new meaning to my passion for sports. It has provided knowledge and wisdom through which one can become an integral part of the sports development System. All the modules were so well covered and explained that each topic resonated and helped me enhance my knowledge and understanding. I have come to realise sports development is a holistic process in which every stakeholder is important, and every small effort is a means to achieve the set goals.
Personally, it has been an unforgettable experience to work at ASI and with the high-performance sportsmen. All training establishments are doing their best with the singular aim of winning medals. However, ASI has the roots of being an army set up and it is the discipline that differentiates it from other sporting establishments. ASI gave me the opportunity to interact, exchange views and opinions with support staff from SAI, IIS Bellary, NADA, OGQ, TOPS, Lakshya Academy, and many others. I wish Team ASI the very best in all its future endeavours and wish it success and glory in times to come.
About the Author -
Col Sameer Khanna (SM) has put in 28 years plus of defence service to the motherland. His passion for sports led him to participate in two Nationals (Javelin and Hockey), University games (Hockey) in 1990-1992 and Services trials in Squash in 2006. An alumnus of St Vincents High School and Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune, he has been awarded twice for gallantry for his efforts in fighting militancy in J&K. Col Khanna was given the opportunity to serve the elite Army Sports Institute from May 2019 to Jul 2021.