"Can India ever be a dominant nation in the Olympics medal tally?"

“Let’s make our Olympic dreams come true in a scientific manner”

Dr.Vivek Nalgirkar

3/10/2022 2 min read

A striking news emerged from the recently concluded Rio Olympics. The news relates to an Indian athlete who participated in 40 Km marathon. The athlete was ranked among the last few to have finished the race. Her photographs, showing her lying completely exhausted at the end point, were splashed all over the media the next day. She said, “I was pulseless for a while..”. It was also reported that the legitimate provision of fluids/electrolytes/energy drinks, during the event, was not made available to her, either due to her own refusal or due to inadequate preparation on the part of the administration.

The story is a perfect narrative of India’s present handling of sports, the sports culture in India, and how far behind india is lagging, as a nation, in treating sports as a profession and a science.

Sports as a science has a very wide range of application of technical, biomechanical, physiological and biochemical dimensions. In an event like shooting, even a twitch of a single concerned muscle has implications in the end result. On the other hand, marathon events involve multiple organ systems – types of skeletal muscle fibers and their energy metabolisms, cardiovascular endurance, lactate threshold, CNS fatigue, and so on. Where weight lifting events involve the strength training of the participants, gymnastics will involve biomechanics.

Research in the field of sports science has progressed to an advanced stage, in China, Australia, and western countries. India, still a developing country, is way behind, insofar as realization and implementation of science in sports.

If a young boy or girl wants to be an athlete, what event would he/she excel in? It would depend on his/her population (or proportion) of red and pale muscle fibers. Red muscle fibers (with more myoglobin and mitochondria) would be put to maximum use in marathon events; on the other hand, greater population of pale fibers will have a bearing on the 100 m-, 200 m-, 400 m-, and similar short-time intense events. Since the population of fibers is determined genetically, finding out the proportion of fibers would help the boy/girl decide, early in life, which type of athletic event should he/she choose

Biochemical analysis of energy systems, cardiovascular endurance, biomechanics and ergonomics, strength assessment, and so on; there are many dimensions that need to be explored in order to develop a scientific methodology in talent hunting and grooming in sports.

Keeping this in mind, the Department of Physiology at D.Y. Patil Medical College, Nerul, Navi Mumbai is coming up with a re-packaged degree course on Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science. The course aims at producing the coaches that understand the science behind the various sporting events, as also to promote research in this field. The course imparts training in sports-related aspects of medicinal subjects, nutrition, sports psychology, and kinesiology. One needn’t be a great athlete himself/herself to join the course or aspire to be a successful coach. Understanding and knowledge of the various facets will generate scientific approach in the sportspersons and trainers/coaches. It will go a long way in fulfilling our collective desire, to be a dominant nation in the Olympic medal tally. MY BEST WISHES TO THE COURSE!

Dr. Vivek V. Nalgirkar