After much delay, the high performance academy in athletics, a joint venture of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Athletics Federation of India (AFI) might finally get going next year.
Aimed at churning out champions in sprints and jumps, the project was supposed to be launched at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in June.
The proposal is still in the pipeline as the government and federation aren’t on the same page on the appointment of coaching staff. The AFI has even shortlisted over 60 athletes, including girls in u-18 group, for the project. Besides Indian coaches, there is also the option of appointing a foreign expert to oversee the academy.
The sports ministry, AFI, in coordination with the world body of athletics (IAAF), had signed a MoU in the presence of IAAF chief Sebastian Coe in October last year.
The federation had even recommended Derek Boosey as the high performance director, but the US-based official, with a monthly salary of over `5 lakh, lasted just six months.
The Nehru Stadium was the venue for track and field events during the 1982 Asian Games and 2010 Commonwealth Games, but according to a national-level coach, it is not suitable for a high-performance academy.
Since there isn’t an indoor track in the Capital, athletes selected for the academy from across the country will find it difficult to cope with the heat and Delhi’s toxic air.
The venue also hosts Indian Super League matches, hence the main track is often out of bounds. “Training on the warm-up track will also get interrupted,” said an international runner.
The stadium is also a venue for the 2017 Fifa U-17 World Cup.
When contacted, director-general, SAI, Injeti Srinivas, said the project was result oriented. “We want specific goals to be set each year by the coaches. There should be a system to achieve targets, a sort of commitment by all.”
He was hopeful the academy would be a success. “Teamwork and commitment will matter the most,” he said.