In an initiative claimed to be the first of its kind in talent scouting, six fastest young sprinters were on Sunday picked after a rigorous competition from among schoolchildren across the country for a week-long training in Australia under a world famous athletics coach.
The six schoolchildren, two each from Under-12, 14 and 16 categories, were picked in the grand finale of the initiative called 'Speedstar- the Hunt for Flying Indian' held in Mumbai with legendary athlete P T Usha, the brand ambassador of the event, helping in picking the youngsters.
The initiative, organised by KOOH Sports, a sports promotion company based Mumbai, has seen participation of over 10,000 children from around 800 schools across the country in the selection process spread over two months.
The six winners of the grand finale will now head for a week-long intensive training in Australia courtesy Griffith University, the official academy partner, under the guidance of Sharon Hannan, the world famous athletics coach under whom London Olympics gold-medallist Sally Pearson trains.
In its launch edition, 'Speedstar' has travelled to 12 cities across India including, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Sonepat over the past two months with a view to provide a platform for the deserving talent of the country.
Commenting on the initiative, Usha said, "It is encouraging to see the response generated by Speedstar and initiatives like these will go a long way in cultivating next-generation athletes in India. I am extremely delighted to be associated with KOOH Sports and being instrumental in creating awareness on the importance of athletics to young Indians."
Susir Kumar, founder and chairman, KOOH Sports, said, "We are happy to conclude the first edition of Speedstar. The intent of Speedstar is to proliferate the importance of athletics and provide young kids a platform to display their talent. This annual proposition of KOOH Sports has been carved to render international exposure to the deserving lot and give them a perspective necessary for professional competition."
Adille Sumariwalla, President Athletics Federation of India, said, "The Speedstar initiative is indeed a commendable program and it is heartening to see private participation in the sector. By partnering with KOOH Sports, we are confident that India will get the much needed thrust at the grass roots level to create a pool of athletes while generating an attitudinal shift to pursue sports as a career."
KOOH Sports, set up in June 2010 with a mission to improve the condition of sports in the country, is being backed by funding from India's leading corporate houses TCS and HDFC.
Final winners of Speedstar:
Name of Participant
Girl: Shabnam Naik (New Delhi) 14.04 secs
Boy: Nilesh Batre (Mumbai) 13.31 secs
Girl: Siddhi Hiray (Pune) 13.01 secs
Boy: P Siva (Hyderabad) 11.72 secs
Girl: Anita Das (Kolkata) 12.79 secs.