“Bengaluru needs at least two more Kanteerava-like centres”: Pramila Aiyappa, Olympian

What training facilities do Bengaluru offer for its aspiring sportspersons? In this edition of Citizens Live, Olympian Pramila Aiyappa and para-athlete Shalini Saraswathi talk about existing facilities and what needs to change

If you want to be a professional sportsperson, what training options do you have in Bengaluru? Where do you go if you can’t afford private coaching or training facilities? In this edition of Citizens Live, Olympian Pramila Aiyappa and para-athlete Shalini Saraswathi share their thoughts.

Currently, there are only two major sports training facilities in Bengaluru – state government’s Kanteerava Stadium, and central government’s SAI (Sports Authority of India) centre in Kengeri. Pramila, a heptathlete who had trained at SAI, says that all facilities are not available under one roof. Currently a coach, Pramila had represented India in the 2000 and 2008 olympics, and won a bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games.

“I used to train at the tracks at both SAI and Kanteerava. I had to go to a different place for physiotherapy. So there was a lot of travel. Students and working youth now just wouldn’t have the time for this,” she says, adding that Bengaluru’s traffic makes the situation worse. She opines that the city should have at least two more training centres on the lines of Kanteerava stadium.

“When we go to national camp, we get all facilities, a nutritionist, physiotherapist etc. But what facilities are we getting here, so that we can get to national camp? Nothing,” says Pramila. She says that the state government has set up more synthetic tracks across the state over time, but these are not maintained well. Pointing out that the tracks in Kanteerava Stadium has been worn out since couple of years, she opines that maintenance and coaching need to be improved.

The situation is worse for para-athletes, points out Shalini Saraswathi, who is training to participate in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. Accessing Kanteerava stadium was the first hurdle for her – the only option was to use the stairs. “If you have a walking disability, you can’t even get into the stadium. Someone in a wheelchair can’t play volleyball or basketball here. The track is not adapted for people with disabilities.”

The government has to think about accessibility, get people with disabilities into sports, and provide facilities. “It’s time to start listening to us,” says Shalini.

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