Odisha’s High-Performance Centre for athletics, which is a collaboration between the state government and the Reliance Foundation, will conduct unique “performance graded races” for 29 budding athletes in which age and gender won’t be the basis of groupings.
The competition is a brainchild of centre’s head coach James Hillier, who says the races will allow the athletes, between the ages of 13 to 17 years, experience competitiveness at its best as they would be segregated on the basis of their timings.
“This will hopefully help the athletes focus more on their own best individual performances rather than getting distracted in personal rivalries or just winning their respective age group race,” explained Hillier.
“We would rather an athlete finishes fifth in a personal best performance in a high-quality race than win easily with a poor performance in a weak race,” the former British athlete added.
The three-stage competition that began at the Kalinga Stadium in a bio-secure bubble on Sarurday will feature sprint, middle and long distance running and hurdles.
The second and third stages of the competition will be held on October 28 and 31 before the grand finale on November 8.
“Our sprint events will always be run with prevailing wind conditions and our middle-distance events will have pace-makers,” Hillier said.
“We also rank our races based purely on performances and therefore it is possible for athletes of different ages and sex to compete in the same race if they are of similar abilities,” he added.
The athletes, all from Odisha, reside at the Bhubaneswar state sports hostel.
Athletes in the academy group are 16 years or older and are identified at various stages of development from being two years away from winning a national level medal to those with established international credentials.
There are nine such athletes (six from Odisha) at the HPC academy currently, who live at the Kalinga stadium.
In Hillier’s estimation, at the end of these four competitions, with plenty of time in the interim periods to analyse performances, these athletes will make significant progress.
Hillier had experimented with a similar concept in a hurdles specific competition in the UK.
In the first year, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still being felt, the competition will be restricted to athletes from the HPC academy.
But from next year, they plan to expand the competition to athletes outside the HPC.
The HPC is a collaborative effort of the Odisha Government and the Reliance under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2018 with the aim to improve the standard of athletics across the state and produce home-grown athletes who can achieve both national and international success.