At a time when experts from the Eastern Bloc countries are under the scanner for their alleged role in administering performance-enhancing drugs to the country's top athletes, star track runner Ashwini Akkunji still has faith in Yuryi Ogorodnik, the controversial Ukrainian coach.
The lanky runner attributes her success to Ogorodnik. “If I was able to win a medal in the Asian Games, it was due to the good training programme chalked out by him,” she told HT from her base in Patiala.
Ogorodnik, who has been overseeing the training of India's top athletes for the past decade, is considered to be the guiding force behind the success of several runners, particularly the women's relay (4x400m) team.
Ashwini, who did the country proud by winning the maiden gold in women's 400m hurdles at the Guangzhou Asian Games, is yet to firm up plans which will prepare her for the upcoming European circuit.
Despite running sub-53 seconds in a 400m flat race at the Inter-State meet in Bangalore recently, Ashwini hasn't started practicing for the hurdles. “As my fitness is not up to the mark, participation in European meets is doubtful,” said the track runner. Subsequently, her plans for the London Olympics are also on hold. “Only when my coach (Ogorodnik) tells me that I am ready to compete in major events, will I move on.”
Even the plan to travel to Ukraine, a favoured destination for Indian athletes, is doubtful. “There was a proposal, but in the current scenario, I don't think we will be going,” she said.