Adille Sumariwalla- Bringing the Change India Needs: Athlete Story


  • Adille Sumariwalla won the 100 meters event at the nationals for eleven consecutive times! Then he represented India at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
  • In 1985, he was bestowed with the prestigious Arjuna Award for his achievements.
  • After a stellar career in athletics, he decided to explore his entrepreneur side. He took on various roles in media and communications companies. Finally, he started his own venture called Interspace Communications.
  • Sumariwalla, however, was not going to stop at just that and he decided to be part of Indian sports in a more proactive role.
  • Right now, he is the President of the Indian Athletics Federation. He made history by being elected as a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
  • Adille is working towards better infrastructural and financial opportunities for budding sportsmen and sportswomen through his current role. He is also involved in rooting out problems like doping and sexual harassment that have come to the forefront recently.

Adille Sumariwalla
We read about the accomplishments of our athletes at numerous tournaments. Our chests swell with pride when we see them standing on the podium to receive a medal. We are extremely proud of their achievements and success. Today, due to social media and increasing awareness of sports, athletes are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Somewhere down the line, we do tend to forget the stars who calmly do their work, without the limelight.

Every actor needs backstage support to ensure a smooth show. Today we delve into the life of one such individual, who has played a major role in uplifting Indian sports. He may not always be in the limelight, but he has taken his role head-on. We are talking about none other than; the former athlete turned businessperson, and current president of Athletics Federation of India, Adille Sumariwalla.
Quick Facts

  • Date of Birth: 1 January 1958
  • Height: 168 cm
  • Weight: 67 kg
  • Sport: Athletics
  •  Event: 100 meters
  • Personal Best: 10.4 seconds

Early Life
Adille J Sumariwalla was born in a Parsi family. His involvement in sports started at a very young age. Moreover, he participated in many inter-school events. His first record came in college itself. In the 200 meters tournament, he clocked in a stunning timing of 22.2 seconds. Interestingly, this inter-college record remained unbeaten for 35 years! It was finally broken by Gaurang Amre in 2014 by clocking 21.7 seconds.

Adille Sumariwalla was extremely happy that the record was broken, but was disappointed that it took so many years. For sports to thrive in India, records should be broken every two to three years he feels.
Career- As An Athlete
After some stellar performances at the collegiate level, he made his mark on the national platform. The sprinter continued a golden run in 100 meters by winning the Nationals eleven consecutive times! That is not an easy feat. His steady performance catapulted his fame and him a national champion.

The most important moment of Sumariwalla’s sporting career was definitely the 1980 Summer Olympics. The games were held in Moscow, the Soviet Union and he was the representative of India in 100 meters race. Sumariwalla could not get a podium finish, as he stood seventh in the first round. Though he missed the much-coveted Olympic medal, the opportunity he got to represent the country in the most important sporting event is truly special for him.

After capturing the imagination of the entire nation as a sprinter, Sumariwalla is now working towards the betterment of infrastructural opportunities for our athletes. Currently, he is the President of the Athletics Federation of India.


In August 2015, Sumariwalla became the first Indian to be elected as a member of the IAAF Council. He became part of the powerful organization at the 50th Congress of the world athletics body. He got 61 votes to seal the deal. It was a very proud moment for all Indians.

His Vision
In an interview with DNA India, Sumariwalla expressed his vision for Indian athletes. Here is what he said.

This is the beginning. Are we capable? Yes. Will it happen? I hope so. Are we doing our best? Yes. If everybody continues to work as a team as we did in the Asian Games, I am hopeful we will win a medal. We need to keep our athletes away from the so-called armchair advisors. If we do that and follow the programme that we have chalked out for 2020, am very hopeful we will get a few medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Sumariwalla is working extensively with his team to ensure Olympic medals for India in 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He believes that India is on the verge of being a superpower in athletics. The Athletics Federation of India is working privately to chalk out a long-term. They have the complete support of the government.

Twelve athletes qualified for the 2012 London Olympics but in Rio 2016, 34 qualified. We have now started looking at quality. We have submitted our plans for the Olympics to the Government, our target events have all been given to them confidentially,” he told The Hindu in an interview.

Firm Leader

Many cases of sexual harassment of junior athletes by coaches came into the picture since last year. Not the one to mince words or ignore such behavior, Adille Sumariwalla particularly called for exemplary punishment against such people.

I am glad the DG has taken very strong steps and I think we need to go into the details of it and if it is proved to be a sexual harassment case, it needs the strictest punishment. Strictest of charges under the Indian Penal code should be levied on the coach because a coach is a father, a mentor and a guru, so strictest and strictest action should be taken,” he told The Times of India.

Changed the Doping System
Moreover, he has taken steps to control instances of doping as well. Before him joining the federation around 100 samples were tested, but now 1000 samples are being tested. He coordinates with the National Anti-Doping Agency to catch athletes red-handed. Most instances of doping happen at the junior meets since sometimes even the coaches are involved as well. Sumariwalla wants to weed out this issue from its roots. He does not mind the bad publicity coming due to more instances of doping. The fact that an increasing number of offenders are being caught is a positive development for him. It will also help deter others from doing the same mistake.

It is a HUGE problem. We are battling it hard, but we are not winning. Even SAI (the Sports Authority of India) is trying hard. As per the new rule, you need to get the government medical officer’s approval. It is not practical because even a junior team of Mumbai consists of 300 athletes. How will one officer test so many athletes? What we are trying to do is talk to TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and create a unique identity with biometrics,” he told Rediff in an interview.

The second innings
After a stellar career as a sportsman, Sumariwalla entered into media and communications. He markedly worked for 15 years at Tata Engineering and Locomotive.

CqQvu2TWIAALxQpFrom 1994, he worked as the Chief Executive Officer of The Asian Age.

He then was involved with Mid Day Multimedia and Clear Channel in various roles.

Furthermore, Sumariwalla was a part of the boards of Next Media Works and SE TransStadia as well.

He co-founded Interspace Communications, a communications company started to create a plethora of experiences wherein brands get opportunities to have deeper consumer interactions.

He has always encouraged the Indian athletes like Neeraj Chopra in person as well as through social media platforms like Twitter. His Twitter bio says:

Proud Indian. Olympian – Moscow 1980, President Athletics Federation of India, Council Member – International Association of Athletics Federations.

Nothing can sump up his description better than this. He has had an incredible journey as an athlete as well as the president. Being a sportsperson himself, he can certainly understand all the problems athletes face in our country. The steps that he has taken and his proactive work is commendable. We are sure that we will be able to see even more positive steps in the future.

The Conclusion
We would like to conclude with some advice from the man himself. He gave this advice to upcoming athletes in an interview with the Rediff.

Published on Kreedon