National Games: Kerala hit a low with sixth-place finish

Kerala win gold
Kerala team members celebrate after winning the gold medal in canoeing 500m sprint event. File photo: PTI

Ahmedabad: A quick glance at the final medal count for Kerala at the 36th National Games, which concluded here on Wednesday, will show that the total number of medals won by the state came down from 162 to 54 this time vis a vis the previous edition of the Games in 2015.

In the 2015 National Games hosted by Kerala, the state finished second on the overall medals table with 54 gold. This time around, Kerala could secure only 23 gold medals to finish sixth. Although one can argue that support from the home crowd could have helped the state to put up a good show in 2015, this is the worst performance by Kerala in the recent history of the National Games.

Kerala entered the fray as the hat-trick champions in athletics, however, the athletes from the state put up an insipid performance in track and field events. In athletics alone, Kerala had won 34 medals, including 13 gold, in the 2015 edition. This time, the state managed to win only three gold and slumped to fifth position overall.

Kerala's performance could have been even worse if not for ace swimmer Sajan Prakash, who won eight medals including five gold. When the athletes from the state failed to do justice to their abilities, it was in less popular disciplines such as rowing, canoeing, kayaking, roller skating, skateboarding, fencing and judo that Kerala did exceptionally well.

Sports authorities in the state, especially those at the helm of athletics, need to do some serious introspection, or else the state should be prepared to vanish from the national scenario. Notably, states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have benefitted from putting in sincere efforts to develop a sports culture and enhance grassroots development. Karnataka, which finished 11th with eight gold medals in the 2015 edition, improved their tally considerably in Ahmedabad, winning 27 gold medals to end up fourth. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu accounted for as many as 73 medals and bettered their position from eighth to fifth.

"As an Olympian, the performance of Kerala at the Games was disheartening. We need to analyse the factors responsible for this poor show and initiate measures to correct the situation. The future of athletics will be bleak, if we fail to target schools in a big way to expand the base," said Kerala Sports Council president Mercy Kuttan.

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