In sports, it is often said that if you are talented and hard-working, you are bound to get your dues, sooner or later. It could be true for many fortunate ones, but there are few less fortunate as well who are waiting for ‘ages’ to see the saying come true.
Goa’s senior taekwondo player P Anand is one such unfortunate athlete, who despite bringing laurels to the state and country, is still concerned about his future. The 28-year-old feels that there is no security for players.
P Anand, who has won two back to back golds for Goa in the last two National Games held in Jharkhand and Kerala respectively besides winning many other medals at national and international stages, is currently based in Gujarat, where he trains Gujarat national team’s taekwondo players while working for them on a contract basis.
Anand started taekwondo at a tender age of seven when his father, a former Army man, put him to train under an Army coach, who used to train new recruits at Ponda Army campus. It was there that he developed an interest in taekwondo and began practising it regularly. Later, SAG deputed its coach Sunil Sharma under whom he honed his skills further.
“In the initial years, I struggled a lot at the national level. Though I was good at the state level, at national, I was a big disappointment. I participated in four sub-junior and one junior national but failed to put up a good show in all of them. Finally in 2007 almost after 10 years of my entry into mainstream events that I managed to win my first gold medal for Goa. At that time I was 16 years old, but I won the gold in the senior category. A year later, I won an international gold, also in the senior category. At that time juniors could compete with seniors, but it is not so now,” he said.
After that, there was no looking back for Anand as he kept performing well and winning medals for the state and country.
“I even won a bronze in Commonwealth Taekwondo Championship held in Chennai in 2011,” he said.
Talking about the highlights of his career, he said, “The two gold medals that I won in South Asian championships in 2010 and in 2016 are up there on top. Besides, I participated in two Asian Games in 2010 (China) and in 2014 (Korea). In the first, I lost a medal bout while in the second I lost in the pre-quarterfinals. I also represented India in Olympic qualifiers for London 2012 and Rio 2016, but in both I lost the medal bout, or else I would have gone on to represent India at the Olympic.”
Anand expressed his disappointment at the local media for not giving taekwondo its deserving publicity. He was also critical of the sports journalists of the state for not considering him or any other taekwondo player for the GENO Award, despite performing so well at national and international level for the last so many years.
“In my entire career I have received only one award so far — the Dilip Sardesai Award and during that time I remember late chief minister Manohar Parrikar speaking for players and providing (job) security to them. However, nothing has happened since then,” he said.
“Taekwondo Association of Goa is doing its best especially the president Raju Mangeshkar, who is always there to help us in our crisis situation. The government is also supporting us well, but I feel that it can still help us better. In states like Haryana and others, if the players win a medal, national or international, they are assured of a government job. I have my friends in other states who are taekwondo players and are quite junior to me. They have achieved less than what I have actually achieved for my state. But then they all have been given jobs in various government departments in return to their few good performances. In Goa I don’t know if any such policy exists,” asks Anand who holds a masters degree in Physical Education.
“I train a few students in Ponda who come to me for fitness and to learn self-defence techniques. Their parents often ask me one standard question: ‘Sir you achieved so much in taekwondo but what did you get in return’. And that completely embarrasses me as I have no answer to it. And that perhaps is the reason why I want the government to do something for the taekwondo players. My students look up to me as I being their role model, but since nothing has been done on my part, they fail to get any encouragement. About the support from corporate houses, Anand said, “The most I personally lacked is the sponsorship. No corporate house in Goa was generous enough to support me when I wanted it badly. If I had got one, I am sure I would have definitely qualified for Olympics,” he said.
“After winning the gold medal in 2016 South Asian Championship, I approached many for their support. I required to play in many other championships world over to do well and enhance my rankings, but that needed a lot of money which I was not able to get,” he said.
Anand is however excited about the National Games to be held in Goa next year. “I am targeting a gold which would be my third in a row. The forthcoming National Games will be held in our own state, so I will strive hard to give my best,” he said.
When queried upon whether the coming Games would be his last hurrah, the 28-year-old replied in negative. “No. Not all. I will keep playing till there is life in me,” he signed off.