New Delhi: The first-ever Khelo India University Games will take off in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha with a mega launch event at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, Cuttack on 22 February. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the multi-disciplinary sporting event through a video conference facility. The event will be attended by several dignitaries and sportspersons, including the Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik and the Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs & Sports, Kiren Rijiju. The event will take place from 22 February to 1 March.
As many as 3,400 athletes from 159 universities across the country have been given entries in 17 disciplines, including rugby which is among the six-team events. Athletes are looking at the Khelo India University Games to make a mark not only for their institutions and themselves but also to catch the eye of talent scouts.
In the time to come, it would become an important rung in the ladder that the country’s student-athletes seek to climb. The attempt is to make the Khelo India University Games an aspirational competition for India’s youngsters with twin objectives of helping them find the balance between sport and education.
Ace sprinter Dutee Chand, who is a student of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), the host university, is excited to be part of the event. “I may make the grade on the strength of my world ranking but I really want to make it to the Olympic Games by achieving the qualification standard. To improve my ranking, I will need to compete in some quality events and, for some reason or the other, that has not happened,” she said, returning to her workout at the Kalinga Stadium. Chand is currently ranked no. 54 in 100m and no. 43 in 200m race worldwide.
There are other talented athletes like Mangalore University’s triple jumper Jay Shah; his team-mate long-distance runner, Narendra Pratap Singh; Pune University’s long-distance runner, Komal Jagadale; and Acharya Nagarjuna University’s sprinter, Yarraji Jyothi, who will also participate in the Games.
Some of the country’s best young archers like Komolika Bari, Sangampreet Bisla, Muskan Kirar and Sakshi Tote are slated to be in action. “There are not too many competitions for us and hence we will see the very best vie for honours,” said a Delhi University archer, indicating that a lot of the nation’s best marksmen and women would make it a point to turn up at the Games.
With 191 and 183 athletes respectively, from Panjab University (Chandigarh) and Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritsar), will have the largest contingents. These numbers reflect the intense competition between the two universities in the past year, with Panjab University winning the prestigious Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy in August 2019, after 13 years.
Maharshi Dayanand University (Rohtak) is the only other contingent that exceeds 150 athletes. Punjabi University (Patiala) and Kurukshetra University (Haryana) complete the list of five teams with more than 100 athletes. As many as 30 institutions will owe their presence in the roster to one athlete each.
There will be a total of 17 sports namely archery, athletics, boxing, fencing, judo, swimming, weightlifting, wrestling, badminton, basketball, football, hockey, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, rugby and kabaddi.
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