Panchkula, June 3 (IANS) Defending champions Maharashtra are expecting a tough fight with hosts Haryana in a battle royale for supremacy in the Khelo India Youth Games that will get underway officially on Saturday.
The event will be declared open at a spectacular Opening Ceremony here on Saturday, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, and Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur as the chief dignitaries at the extravagant show, headlined by popular rapper Raftaar.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Youth Affairs, and Sports Nisith Pramanik, Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana Dushyant Chautala, and Haryana Sports Minister S. Sandeep Singh, will be among the esteemed guests in a packed stadium at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, the organisers informed in a release on Friday.
Haryana, which has produced multiple Olympics and Asian Games medallists, had clinched the inaugural Khelo India School Games in 2018 to annex the mantle as the number one sporting state.
But the very next year, Maharashtra, making the most of their home advantage, shot to the top of the table in the Games edition that was re-named as Youth Games. They cornered a whopping 85 gold medals to Haryana’s 62 to emerge as the new champions in Pune.
Maharashtra reinforced their supremacy in the next edition in Guwahati too, garnering a total of 78 gold which was 10 more than their fierce rivals.
Now, as hosts, Haryana are seeking revenge. They have not only set themselves the task of vanquishing Maharashtra but are also hopeful of crossing the 100-gold medal mark.
They will aim to dominate and wrest as many medals as possible in wrestling, boxing, and athletics and walk away with the laurels in most team events too.
Haryana will, however, have to keep an eye on Maharashtra, who will be banking on their swimmers, shooters, gymnasts and weightlifters to defend their crown.
“We want to win the overall championship with a record margin and have left no stone unturned to prepare the teams,” Haryana Chef de Mission Vaishali Sharma declared.
Haryana have fielded a 396-member contingent, the largest at KIYG 2021, and will compete in every sport. They have also held three short camps at different hubs in the state, with Sports Director Pankaj Nain personally ensuring top-notch facilities there while monitoring their progress too.
Unlike the previous editions, where the Khelo India Youth Games were held in two age categories, this one will only have Under-18 players competing for the honours. Maharashtra consider this as an advantage, with their Chef de Mission Anil Chormale insisting that the squad is strong enough to overcome the challenge from the hosts.
“This is the largest contingent ever in one age group. We have picked the best line-ups and I am sure we will retain the title for the third time on the trot,” he said.
Maharashtra have sent a 318-strong contingent and will be competing in 23 of the 25 events.
Karnataka and Delhi are likely to challenge for the third spot in the overall standings, with the former banking on swimming and athletics for the bulk of their medals.
But Delhi, with a contingent size of 253, has medal prospects across various disciplines and are hoping to close the gap between them and the top two contenders.
Overall, as many as 4,700 athletes, including 2,262 girls, will be vying in 25 sports for 269 gold, 269 silver and 358 bronze medals.
The competitions have already started with preliminary rounds in volleyball and kabaddi.