Rio-bound race walker Sapna Punia has decided to join the national preparatory camp at Spala, Poland, after the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) agreed to accommodate her husband Anil Punia as coach.
Last month, five walkers including Khushbir Kaur, silver medalists at the Incheon Asian Games, went to Poland for advanced training with foreign coach Alexander Artsybashev. But Sapna withdrew as her personal coach was not allowed to accompany her.
Perhaps after the intervention of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), it is learnt, the federation has agreed to accommodate Anil in the camp.
Dilip Kumar, SAI’s project officer for athletics, confirmed the funds have been sanctioned for Sapna’s advanced training in Poland. The SAI official added: “The government has given financial assistance to the tune of Rs 30 lakh to prepare for the Olympics. Things have settled down and there shouldn’t be any problem now. The athlete and her coach will shortly join the group in Poland.”
Sapna has been training outside the national camp and she also withdrew from last month’s world race walking team championships held In Rome on medical grounds.
Her husband said that Sapna was advised by medical experts to take a break from training as she was suffering from a stomach ailment, adding she is now healthy and ready to train hard.
Besides Sapna, shot putter Manpreet Kaur, who has also achieved Rio berth, will leave for Poland next week. She will also be accompanied by her husband. Earlier, Manpreet also had refused to join the national camp at Patiala as her husband was not included in the coaching staff.
There has been a tradition of having husbands as personal coach in the country. Discus thrower Seema Antil Punia has her husband Ankush as personal coach. Similarly, another discus thrower Krishan Poonia has Varinder Poonia, her husband, as personal coach.
Before major events such as the Olympics, the federation has always handled the issue of personal coaches with care. However, this time it got a bit controversial.