Pentathlon attempts to take off with runners, swimmers
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The endeavour is so ambitious that you are tempted to tell Namdev Shirgavkar to pitch his grand plan as five clubby activities at a breezy summer camp for kids, and not even utter the serious sounding words 'Olympic sport.'
For a country that has never sent participants to the Big O in horse riding (show-jumping) and fencing, that sent a swimmer who finished last in his event at London lapped mercilessly by all others, and has just found a niche in shooting — the most passive of modern pentathlon's constituent sports — Shirgavkar's zeal to push for a programme and enlist participants can only be described as sports administration's equivalent of bold bombast.
But the secretary general of the recently-formed Modern Pentathlon Federation of India, walks in the stubborn footsteps of Olympic's grand old man — Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who pestered and petitioned his reluctant peers to include the five-discipline modern pentatholon into the quadrennial's programme, and got his way much to his eventual glee.
Still, undertaking this project in India — global sport's biggest slumbering giant, which barely stirred from its sleep this year in London with 6 medals - isn't going to be a stroll in any sort of park. Picking a clutch of medals (four team podiums) at the recent UIPM XIV Baithle World Championships (run-swim-run) in Dubai, Shirgavkar believes India is ready to make the transition to the Modern Pentathlon, a hugely fascinating Olympic sport with inversely proportional popularity ratings in London. Coubertin intended for warring cavalries to find some semblance of bonhomie by throwing them into sports competitions, but 2012 India, with its academics inclined pre-teens and sedentary adults just seems like a steep Himalayan climb for pentathlon.
Imagine finding one bloke or girl who's enthusiastic about running, swimming, shooting and fencing, before you even think of putting the same bloke or girl astride a horse for show-jumping.