Every time India participates in an international sporting event, we loved to talk about how we as a nation don’t have a sporting culture, how we lack the killer instinct, how rotten our Indian sports bodies are, so on and so forth. Thankfully, we are spared of such empty talk this sporting season where we had Commonwealth Games and Asian Games side by side. Our boys and girls are performing with such awe inspiring spirit, that most of our ever-critical mouths are busy gaping at their accomplishment!

Indian athletes garnered an all time high collection of 14 golds and 65 medals in total during the previous Asian Games in 2010. Hopefully they will emulate the record haul this year at the Incheon Asian Games. While our nation is finally performing like it should in various sports, it is interesting to observe that this performance is not coming from all across the nation. In fact, as per a study conducted by HT Mint on regional sports in India, it is still certain pockets spread across some states that are capturing all the glory. Here is a compilation of various regions in India that excel in specific sports disciplines:

Athletics – Kerala

Regional Sports - P T Usha & 400m women relay team | Courtesy: NDTV-AFP
P T Usha & 400m women relay team | Courtesy: NDTV-AFP

Athletics has been the natural sport in which India excelled in the early decades of 1950s-80s, where our country still collects medals even now. While this is a pan-Indian sport where we find Punjabis, Kannadigas and Bengalis sprinting ahead of the rest, it is the tiny state of Kerala that stands out. Kerala athletes have always lead the rest since the day when P T Usha captured the nation’s attention by narrowly missed a medal at the 1984 Olympics. Since 1998, Kerala athletes have won an amazing 10 golds, 8 silver and 4 bronze medals.

Since then, numerous stars have captured the limelight in the Asiad arena. Illustrious women such as Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, Mercy Kuttan, Chithra K Soman, Sini Jose, Anju Bobby George, Preeja Sreedharan were the leading lights who captured gold in numerous track events since 1982. Binu K M, Bobby Aloysius, Renjith Maheswary, T.C.Yohannan, Suresh Babu were some of the Malayali men who stood on the podium with medals in mainly field events. The high levels of education and women empowerment in the Malayali society is considered one of the reasons for this stupendous achievement!

Wrestling – Haryana

Regional Sports - Sushil Kumar & Haryanvi wrestlers | Courtesy: HT Media
Sushil Kumar & Haryanvi wrestlers | Courtesy: HT Media

Wrestling has been a traditional game played in India since time immemorial. It was a sport that got royal patronage during the age of Maharajas, which had lost its preeminent position during 1950s-80s. Fortunately, the days of old glory are returning with the hunks of Haryana and Delhi wrestling their way to the top. Sonepat district in Haryana is the fountainhead for Indian wrestling where run by the Sports Authority of India’s Chaudhary Devi Lal Sports Centre is located, which nurtures budding wrestlers. Since 1998, Haryanvi wrestlers have won an amazing 7 gold, 5 silver and 9 bronze medals.

All the great names of Indian wrestling today, Sushil Kumar Solanki, Rajeev Tomar, Amit Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, hail from Haryana. In fact, this state, which is considered the most backward in terms of women empowerment, has produced the nation’s best female wrestlers. Apart from Alka Tomar, the three Phogat sisters led by Geeta Phogat were nurtured and Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former wrestler who runs a wrestling school for girls in Balali. This enduring success can be traced to the thriving rural wrestling tradition in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, where every large village has an akhara to train pehalwans.

Shooting – Delhi and Maharashtra

Regional Sports - Rajyavardhan Rathore | Courtesy: Rajputanas.com
Rajyavardhan Rathore | Courtesy: Rajputanas.com

If we trace back India’s achievements in all recent international sporting events, shooting has a role to play in each one of them. It is surprising for a nation, which for an outsider looks like society that is wandering aimlessly, Indian shooters have shown to the world that there is something in our organised chaos that helps us focus! Two specific locations have emerged as the bull’s eye for our shooters – Delhi and Maharashtra.

Shooting has been a totally different story unlike any other sport in India due to one key element – world class infrastructure provided by the government. The Indian Army runs a training centre for sport shooting, the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), which used to produce the earliest champions. Delhi and Pune in Maharashtra have two of the country’s biggest and most well-equipped shooting ranges, which have nurtured numerous international shooters. Abhinav Bindra, Mansher Singh, Ronjan Sodhi, Jitu Rai, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Samaresh Jung, Jaspal Rana emerged from Delhi, while Gagan Narang, Heena Sidhu and Anjali Bhagwat came out of Maharashtra.

Continued in Infographic – Regional champions in Indian sports

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Levine Lawrence
Stuck inside an air-conditioned cubicle... i yearn to ride into the countryside... under the open blue skies, where farmers toil in the field, smell mitti ki khushboo, fill more greenery into the picture... travel across the world, meet more people, bring smile on faces... and finally, work for world peace. Just like those Miss World statements! I am a veteran media professional with 12 years of diverse experience in business media and research in India. Apart from my full time job as a researcher, I have been an avid travel photo-journalist, who has covered the art & cultural aspects of South India. Further, I am actively involved in the voluntary organisations working on energy efficiency, organic farming and environmental issues.
  • While appreciating Levine Lawrence painstaking article of “Regional Sports Powerhouses of India” allow me to add some.

    Indian Hockey !! Oh, they are in shambles really. The myth that players from the north indian cities could excel in such a fast game with a stick and a ball is all over now provided, mind you, it is PROVIDED the authorities concerned in selecting the Indian “stick and ball” team would only let their empathy and sympathy go beyond to the other areas (read here region) and scout for real sturdy and tough players from small states called Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. Am sure you have heard these names somewhere. It is not only about guns and insurgencies. It is also about talents which is in plentiful in this part of the Indian eastern region. Take Mary Kom and Sunil Thapa for instance….i need not go into details as the whole world knows them.
    As for Indian Hockey, tap it from this region also and see for yourself the rugged, tough and diminutive figures ( read athletes)who could bring back the past glories with sheer hard work and an uncanny knack of outwitting the rivals.Hone them right now.