'Specialised squads' to be formed for talent scouting to identify athletes for Olympic 2028: Rijiju

New Delhi [India], April 29 (ANI): With an aim to take India in the top 10 countries in the Olympic 2028 medal tally, Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, on Wednesday said that the government will form "specialised squads" for talent scouting to prepare the country to the event.

The talent scouting squads will be consisting of veteran players, present and retired coaches who will tour every part of the country and identify potential talent at a young age. Rijiju was addressing an online knowledge enhancement session of table tennis coaches.

"We have set ourselves a goal of having India in the top 10 countries in the Olympic 2028 medal tally. It is an ambitious goal, but not impossible. We have already started scouting for young talent and after the Covid-19 pandemic is over, the government will form specialised squads for each sporting discipline consisting of present and veteran coaches and athletes," Rijiju said.

"These teams will travel to every district of the country to scout for raw talent. We still have 8 years to prepare for 2028 and I am confident with the correct policies, India can feature in the list of Top 10 countries," he added.

The session was attended by celebrated Indian table tennis player Kamlesh Mehta, secretary of The Table Tennis Federation of India MP Singh, and conducted by eminent Table Tennis coach Massimo Constantini from his home in Italy.

Massimo, who has been India's national coach in two phases, is credited for India's big medal hauls in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Rijiju said if India has the ability to win medals in the Asian Games then it can also clinch medals in the Olympics.

"2018 was a landmark year for table tennis in India because by winning the two bronze medals in the Asian Games we proved that our level has improved significantly. The strongest table-tennis playing countries participate in the Asian Games and if we could clinch medals there, we can even win medals in the Olympics," said the Sports Minister.

Rijiju also said that he sees a lot of potential in the sport of table tennis.

"Table Tennis needs very limited infrastructure and it can be played by youngsters in any part of the country. I really see a lot of potential in this sport and government policies are being framed to create more infrastructure and training facilities for table tennis at the district, state and national level," he said.

"I will also personally visit some good academies and urge them to include table tennis training. Given the standard of the game in India right now, I feel that by 2028, we should be able to clinch some medals in TT at the Olympics," Rijiju added.

Rijiju also feels that it is important to organise more leagues in table tennis to popularise the game and motivate more youngsters to take it up.

"I attended the Ultimate Table Tennis league last year and feel that leagues of this kind can help to make the sport popular and also commercialise it. It is important for corporates to show interest in creating such leagues in table tennis and in all sports so that with corporate funding and government patronage, the sporting ecosystem in the country becomes more robust," he said. (ANI)