How can India win more medals in Olympics?

Why am I talking about Olympics now? Well, I’ve heard several comments on India’s achievements. “Why can’t India win more medals when our population is so large?” I believe this is the right time to talk about it if we intend to make an impression in the future Olympics. It’s easier to talk (rather comment) about Olympics when they happen and then immediately forget. Watching people participate and win is such a great inspiration. Each participant has a real story of grit and courage behind them. These things don’t happen overnight.

I think it’s a bit of an innocent question to ask “why can’t India win more medals when our population is so large”. Here are my views on ways to win more and build a health India:

how can india win more medals in olympics

Change in our sports culture is happening

As a culture, we were not a very sporting nation. Our involvement and action in sports just started to build in last few years. We’ve been curing our insecurities so far and its only now that we are breaking the shackles. We are now in a phase where, we are hungry and there are plenty of opportunities. We are just chasing them. The big question is, do we know where to start and where to stop? We have designed great career paths for Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers and other professions. We don’t have one for sports yet. The good news is that we are figuring it out ourselves. Sports is looking as a more attractive option today and everybody is wanting to jump on to this and grab the opportunity with both hands.

Sports will succeed when it is available for masses

Any nation consistently succeeds in sports when the sport is played by the masses. If you have a sport which cannot be played by the common man, you can never do consistently well at the global level. Let’s look at England or Brazil for example – They do extremely well in football. One just needs a ground and a football. Everyone, irrespective of their background, is set for a game of footy. The energy levels, madness and the hunger is at a different level of display.

If you take tennis or golf. They are the elitist games. You need to have a club membership, shoes, rackets, coach and then the capacity to pay that kind of money. That is why we are not exposed to certain sports which need more investments. You will only see a few people who are highly inspired and committed coming up the ranks in such sports. Even then, one needs to identify such people and work on them to get them ready for the global platform.

Cricket is available for masses and that is why we are a large cricket playing nation. If we want to expand our horizon in other sports, we need to make such sports available at the mass level. There is no other alternative.

Moving the whole mass together takes time

Thailand is a much smaller country than India, but won more medals. It feels amazing. How do you explain that? When you are a small country, you are so much more agile. When you are a large nation, there is an eternal challenge of moving the entire nation together. Moving the whole mass together is always going to be a slow march. Just like the fact that the elephant herd moves slower. If we need to move faster, then a lot many should start playing the sport. Not just a handful.

Build the muscle mass at a young age

As a doctor, I can tell you that the bone structure and muscle mass is built when the person is young. That is the energy bank we build and store for the rest of our lives. We don’t build muscle mass when we are 50. We need to build that when we are young and sports is the best way to do it. Some sports are more suitable for some genetic pools than the other, but nothing stops you from endurance.

Culture change starts with the family

It’s very easy to sit in front of our TV sets and pass a comment that “India should’ve got more medals”. The worrying part is that even youngsters are making such comments.

The nation will not push the sports agenda unless individuals feel it to be important. The equation is simple – If the family considers that sports is a good investment, then the communities will consider it a good investment. And obviously, the state and the nation will then think it to be a good investment.

I’ve heard each of our champions talking – Sindhu, Sakshi and Deepa. All of them spoke about the sacrifices their families made and the support they offered in the individual’s success. The writing is on the wall – let us start changing things at the simplest level – our own family. If we want the nation to bring in more medals, let us start sending our children to the playground for at least a couple of hours a day.

Sports is a part and a way of life

Olympics or not, I strongly feel that sports is the best investment for every individual. I am not asking everyone to be an Olympian or build a career in sports. No, that is not the point. All I am saying is play a sport every day. Make it a part of the daily life. In my point of view, sporting fraternity is the most sensible. You see young people who do not play sports indulge in something which might not be very constructive. As a person is growing up, if one doesn’t have a healthy activity to do, there are good chances that we might invariably go down the wrong lane. Sports field is a great place for the young people to meet each other and spend the time constructively. When the game is over, the discussions are so much healthier compared to the non-sporting groups.

Sports has all the ingredients to make a champion human being

In continuation to my earlier point, sports teach us a way of life. Look at what all it gives us:

  • It is intense
  • It’s got practice
  • It has endurance
  • It gives us physical and mental strength
  • It teaches us the power of losing
  • It teaches us to celebrate victory
  • It teaches us to respect opponents
  • It teaches us to be a team player

Sports teaches all facets of life and that can hold an individual in a great stead.

Celebrate sports people

Sports people need to be celebrated a lot more than what we do today. As a nation, we celebrate people from the entertainment industry a lot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I strongly feel that the sporting people need an equal or a bigger pedestal. As a nation, if we can consciously do that and then supported by the political and media institutions, we will definitely create even more winners at the world stage.

To me, sports people are more inspirational. The delight of winning is so amazing. They construct their lives brick by brick and see the pinnacle of all their hard work coming together. There is a whole human story when you see a sports person receiving the medal.

Should Government do it all?

For everything, we say that the Government should do it all. I really don’t see that the Government is the only one who needs to be involved in building India as a sporting nation. This is a culture and these cultural tweaks happen at a family level. We need masses adopting sports as a part of their life. Systems, coaching camps and Government involvement are important for fine tuning the talent. But, the basic push has to come from the family.

One word for the parents

What do you want from your children? To sit in front of you like a good boy and a girl? Or you want them to explore the world, grow up and have their own personality. Sports enables an individual to explore the world from your own locality.

In my experience, I have seen that the sporting people are consistently healthier in their minds and bodies. Life is not all about bookish knowledge. Life is about the 360-degree perspective. You need a personality and the physical health to battle the rigors of life. Sporting people seem to do this very efficiently as their social intelligence is superior when it comes to managing self, family, managers, teams and the work-life balance. This is not a rule, but this is what by and large I have seen in last 50 years.

Education is seeing a great push in India and this is happening at the family level. Educated people with sports in their grain will create a finer breed of people who will build a smart and a healthier nation.


Come, let’s build a healthy and an even smarter India. Come, let’s be a sport.


Dr. Sharan