Those days, internet was a new thing. And in Manipur, it was even more difficult to get access. It still is, at times (laughs).”
For about 19 years now, they have persisted with the sport, but unfortunately, it’s still just them.
In a country of over a billion people, it becomes an impossible task for a few friends to promote and legitimize a sport, without any considerable support. After 7-8 years of rigorous efforts to promote the sport across the country, Irom and friends formed the ESAI. He says, “It was formed so that we can take forward the sport to the state authorities and show them that this is a legitimate sport, which has a crazy follower base in the west and quite a few other Asian countries as well.” For the records, skateboarding or extreme sports is a top level competitive sport in more than 80 countries, almost 5 times the number of countries where cricket is played. And for the likes of Irom, the primary goal is to establish India on extreme sports’ world map.
Over the last few years, they have tried to take the sport to the heart of the country. They organised a few events in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, which witnessed a lot of interest about the sport among the kids – 12-14 year olds. Not only that, during a recent tourism festival, Manipur played host to six of the world’s best BMX riders from Thailand and Indonesia.
Impressed by the Manipuri talent, they expressed their desire to build a skate park in the state and form a riders’ group. A skate park — the request for which was denied by the government.
Irom says, “Three years back, we met the then Sports Minister of Manipur, N. Biren, and he promised his support towards us. But the national and state sporting bodies are yet to accept and introduce extreme sports as a part of the national sporting curriculum.” Unfortunately in India, skateboarding stands beneath the pile of neglected sports. People don’t even know about it.
And that’s why Irom feels that the need of the hour is to find and nurture talents who believe in the sport, more than anything else. The talent that the some of ESAI’s scouted teenagers possess can be understood from the fact that few of their invented skills have been adopted by pro BMX riders.
Extreme sports may or may not (more likely) get the recognition from the mainstream in the long run. “But decades down the line, people will remember the story of how the bike replaced the drugs, of how a whole generation of tattooed trippers found a new aim in life on tattooed skateboards. In Manipur, at least, they shall call it the BMX Revolution,” believes Umamanda.
[…] The BMX revolution and rise of extreme sports (sykose.com) […]
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