Lokesh, who can do a single salto, can learn to do Dipa Karmakar's double salto only if the equipment is upgraded.

Medals came at risk to my life no safety gear for training Top Karnataka gymnastLokesh with his Ekalavya award
news Gymnastics Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 17:34

Dipa Karmakar may have put India’s gymnastics on the world map. But gymnasts from the country say the ‘mother of all sports' – which demands everything from the archer’s steadiness to the stamina of the marathoner – tops the list of sports ignored by the government.

Lokesh Narasimhamurthy, a Karnataka-based gymnast, who was recently conferred the Ekalavya Award, says that little has changed in gymnastics training in the state since he was introduced to the sport in 1998.

“It was when we had just moved to Mysuru from Shivamogga. The equipment used during the National Games in Bengaluru was brought to Mysuru’s Chamundi Vihar stadium. The equipment looked brand new and attracted many children during the summer, but there was no coach,” he said.

Lokesh was initially trained by senior gymnasts in the stadium. He went on to show off some skill in the district-level competitions, where he won a medal.

“That is when my interest grew stronger. After that I have been trained by four coaches in the last 18 years,” he said.

Lokesh, who works as a production engineer in a private firm in Tumakuru, won a gold medal in the 54th Senior National Championship held at Hyderabad in 2014, and a bronze in the 53rd Senior National Championship held at Kurukshetra in 2013.

These victories, he says, were won by risking his life, as there is hardly any proper safety infrastructure available during practice and training, the 28-year-old says.

“While one can talk about international level equipment in Mysuru, people must remember that people cannot train in them. We need basic training tools where newcomers can start learning moves. Coaches cannot train children in international standard equipment which are built for professional performances,” he said.

Lokesh, who claims that he can perform a single salto with perfect landing, says that he dreams of performing Dipa’s double salto with a perfect landing, but could only do so if the equipment is upgraded.

“Dipa's double salto is risky, and if not executed perfectly, runs the risk of splitting the gymnast's spine in half or injuring him or her permanently. I can't risk it on the equipment that is there in Mysuru. the nearest place where I could practice it is Kerala,” he says.

Gymnastics is considered to be a sport with higher than average injury rates. Lokesh claims to have witnessed at least four trained gymnasts grievously injuring themselves during practice and training.

“I have myself hurt my neck, ankle, and fingers many times. The stadiums need foam pits and safety infrastructure, which are currently missing,” he said.

The state government must help sportspersons who have qualified for national level championships. Lokesh says that unlike sportspersons who are in more comfortable financial positions, he has been unable to spend on much needed food supplements because of their prohibitive costs.

“Indian discus thrower Vikas Gowda has been getting funds for fitness from the state government only since he qualified for the Olympics. The government should help in the fitness of sportspersons at an early stage. This will also help boost their morale,” he said.

Asked how he balances work and practice he says, he finds it difficult to practice but allocates at least a few hours for basic exercises every day. “I spend most of my time in practice when I go home.”

 

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