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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

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London over, no vision for Rio
Navneet Singh, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 02, 2012
First Published: 23:36 IST(2/11/2012)
Last Updated: 01:42 IST(3/11/2012)
Discus thrower Krishna Poonia, who finished seventh in London, will be 39 years old in 2016. File Photo

The Athletics Federation of India, it seems, does not believe in 'sprinting with the times'. There is a perceptible lack of innovative ideas when it comes to chalking out a long-term development plan for major events such as the Olympics and the Asian Games.

As the country takes stock of its London Olympics performance --- with disciplines such as shooting, wrestling and boxing looking to leap to the next level --- athletics is again finding itself grappling with the same issues, which have been there for decades.

The vision plan the federation has conceptualised for the next four years that is expected to produce results in the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, is based on 'historical data'. Literally!

The AFI has set benchmarks based on performances in the 2010 CWG and Asian Games, but they have forgotten to identify talent who could meet those standards.

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Take for example women's discus. The federation would still be banking on the likes of Krishna Poonia, Seema Antil and Harwant Kaur for podium finishes in 2016. That is, if they are still around. In the event of the trio --- who'll be in their early thirties four years from now --- not able to sustain their form and fitness, the AFI will have to fall back upon national champion Parmila, whose best is a good 15 metres behind the current lot!

Chief coach, Bahadur Singh, is completely out of sync with reality when he says that the "focus will continue to be on events in which India won medals during the 2010 CWG and Asian Games". But does he have the talent to replace the old guard?

There is a massive gap between the top two-three and the newcomers short-listed by the federation.

Krishna's husband and coach, Virendra, agrees that there is "no depth in the field". "The second line is non-existent," he said.

Virendra is right. In men's discus, there is a chasm between US-based Vikas Gowda and reigning national champion, Kamalpreet Singh.

Not good enough
While a throw of over 65 metres does not guarantee you a medal on the international stage, Kamalpreet is a good 10 metres behind. In the absence of Guangzhou Asian Games medallists, Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut, L Surya became national champion in 5000m (17:29.94) and 10,000m (35:18.20) respectively, running a good two to four minutes slower than India's top two.

Sadly, the AFI failed to cultivate some of its top athletes, including Joseph Abraham, the 400m hurdles champion in the 2010 Asian Games. After the Games, he was deprived of opportunities and he faded away, failing to qualify for the London Games.

But Singh remains optimistic. "Let's bury the past. You will see good results in the future." He, however, didn't give details of how he would transform ordinary athletes into world-beaters in four years.


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