Olympians and National sports awardees of Manipur

Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh *

India has won 35 medals (10 Gold, 09 Silver, & 16 Bronze) since its first participation in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900 until the most recent 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The medals were mainly won by Men's Hockey Team (12 Medals — 08 Gold, 01 Silver, & 03 Bronze).

Besides Men's Hockey, 23 individual medals were also won, spreading across (i) Athletics, (ii) Wrestling, (iii) Tennis, (iv) Weightlifting, (v) Shooting, (vi) Boxing, and (vii) Badminton. Shri Pangambam Nilakomol Singh is the first Olympian of Manipur. He participated as the Goal Keeper of the Men's Hockey Team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

19 Players from Manipur, including Shri Pangambam Nilakomol Singh representing (i) Hockey (Men's and Women's), (ii) Weightlifting, (iii) Judo, (iv) Archery, and (v) Boxing, participated in the Olympic Games from 1984 to 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Manipur, with 0.24 % of India's total population (2011 census) and 0.7 % of the total land surface of India, contributed 8.57 % of the Olympic medals (35—India/ 03—Manipur) since the 1900 Olympic Games. If we calculate the contribution from the first participation of players from Manipur, then it will be 14.29 % (21—India/03—Manipur) since the 1984 Olympic Games.

The medal winners of Manipur are:-
1. MC Marry Kom won the Bronze medal in Boxing at the 2012 Olympic Games, London.
2. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu won the silver medal in weightlifting at the 2020 Olympic Games, Tokyo.
3. Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma representing the Men's Hockey Team, won the Bronze medal at the 2020 Olympic Games, Tokyo, after a gap of 40 years,
The late Lourembam Brojeshori Devi was the first female Indian Judoka to compete at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

The players from Manipur have participated continuously from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The highest participation was at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with 05 players representing Hockey, Boxing, Weightlifting, and Judo. It was also the most successful Olympic Games in the history of Manipur so far; that two players out of five represented won a medal each (Silver and Bronze).

Olympians of Manipur

Sl No Olympian Category Year/Venue
1) Pangabam Nilakomal Singh Hockey 1984: Olympic Games, Los Angeles
2) Kshtrimayum Thoiba Singh Hockey 1988: Olympic Games, Seoul
3) Soubam Suresh Singh Boxing 2000 : Olympic Games, Sydney
4) Lourembam Brojeshori Devi Judo 2000: Olympic Games, Sydney
5) Ngangom Dingku Singh Boxing 2000: Olympic Games, Sydney
6) Thingbaijam Sanamacha Chanu Weightlifting 2000: Olympic Games, Sydney 2004: Olympic Games, Athens
7) Nameirakpam Kunjarani Devi Weightlifting 2004: Olympic Games, Athens
8) Khumujam Tombi Devi Judo 2008: Olympic Games, Beijing
9) Laishram Devendro Singh Boxing 2012: Olympic Games, London
10) Ngangbam Soniya Chanu Weightlifting 2012: Olympic Games, London
11) Laishram Bombayla Devi Archery 2008: Olympic Games, Beijing 2012: Olympic Games, London 2016: Olympic Games, Rio
12) Khadangbam Kothajit Singh Hockey 2012: Olympic Games, London 2016: Olympic Games, Rio
13) Thokchom Anuradha Devi Hockey 2016: Olympic Games, Rio
14) Kangujam Chinglensana Singh Hockey 2016: Olympic Games, Rio
15) Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom Boxing 2012 : Olympic Games, London; 2016: Olympic Games, Rio 2020: Olympic Games, Tokyo
16) Pulchrambam Sushila Chanu Hockey 2016: Olympic Games, Rio; 2020: Olympic Games, Tokyo
17) Saikhom Mirabai Chanu Weightlifting 2016: Olympic Games, Rio; 2020: Olympic Games, Tokyo
18) Shanglalcpam Nilakanta Shama Hockey 2020: Olympic Games, Tokyo
19) Likmabam Sushila Devi Judo 2020: Olympic Games, Tokyo

Given the lack of international standard sports infrastructure and the financial status/situation of the players, the contribution of Manipur to the Olympic Games is extremely encouraging. Besides the limited infrastructure and financial constraints, the other key challenge of the players was the limitation of specialized experts in their games and supporting experts such as doctors, physiotherapists, masseuses, nutritionists, sports scientists, and counselors, etc.

The Olympians, except two/three, were mainly from low-income families. Their only support system during the sports journey was their family and, to a limited extent, relatives and well-wishers. In the early days of their sporting career, many of them could not afford the basic sporting kits, including shoes. They relied mainly on second-hand kits, which they considered fortunate to get from the other players.

The local coaches initially trained the players and they depend on the local food culture to compete in the games. Some of the players, particularly women players, also bear the brunt of the social stigma of choosing sports as their care.

Some women players even move out of their families to continue playing and training as they cannot continue playing from home under social and family pressure. Olympian Kunjarai Devi is the greatest inspiration for women players even today to energize themselves and fight against social and family pressure.

The do-or-die/perform-or-perish spirit of the players motivates them to entirely focus on the sports as they don't have any good options if they fail in their spotting career. After reaching a certain National and international level, many players discontinue active playing when they get decent job opportunities. Many players are also compelled to leave because of injuries and livelihood compulsions.

Manipur could produce the Olympians because many emerging players were nurtured and patronized by Central Government institutions like Railways, Air India, Central Security Forces, etc., by providing employment and opportunities for specialized training.

It can be recalled that modem sports in Manipur was introduced, nurtured, and patronized by Maharaja Churachand Singh (1886-1941), popularly known as the father of Modem Sports in Manipur. The Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, Imphal, where the 5th National Games was held in 1999, and the Sports Authority of India, Imphal Centre, are the only sports infrastructure facilities worth mentioning in Manipur.

Manipur could produce many prospective Olympians if the international standard sports infrastructure and an institutionalized support system for emerging players are prioritized. It is worth noting that most players reached the world stage by sheer force and will.

Though in its infancy, the National Sports University, which was launched to produce world-class sportspersons, could have taken the lead in this direction with a little more perceptiveness in planning and implementation.

The article briefly introduces the Olympians of Manipur and their struggles to reach the podium of the Olympic Games. The book also introduces the National Sports Awardees of Manipur, which is the stepping stone to the Olympic Games.

National Sports Awardees of Manipur
Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Awardees

1 Nameirakpam Kunjarani Devi Weightlifting 1996-1997
2 Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom Boxing 2009
3 Saikhom Mirabai Weightlifting 2018

Arjuna Awardees

1) Nameirakpam Kunjarani Devi Weightlifting 1990
2) Ngangom Dingku Singh Boxing 1998
3) Kshetrimayum Tingongleima Devi Hockey 2000
4) Thingbaijam Samnamacha Chanu Weightlifting 2000
5) Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom Boxing 2003
6) Waikhom Surjalata Devi Hockey 2003
7) Angom Anita Chanu Judo 2004
8) Khumujam Tombi Devi Judo 2007
9) Laishram Sarita Devi Boxing 2009
10) Mayengbam Suranjoy Singh Boxing 2011
11) Wangkhem Shandhyarani Devi Wushu 2011
12) Laishram Bombay la Devi Archery 2012
13) Ngangbam Sonia Chanu Weightlifting 2012
14) Mayanglambam Bimoljit Singh Wushu 2012
15) Yumnam Renu Bala Chanu Weightlifting 2014
16) Yumnam Sanathoi Devi Wushu 2015
17) Laishram Devendro Siingh Boxing 2017
18) Oinam Bembem Devi Football 2017
19) Kangujam Chinglensana Singh Hockey 2019
20) Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma Hockey 2021
Dronacharya Awardee
Laishram Ibomcha Singh Boxing 2010
Dhyan Chand Awardee
Leishangbam Anita Chanu Weightlifting 2010
Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awardees
1) Gurmayum Anita Devi Land Adventure/Mountaineering 1994
2) Shougrakpam Vijaya Devi Water Adventure/Sailing 2017.

* Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 10 2022 .

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