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Olympic qualifiers train sans support

The country’s elite athletes train here - boxers, wrestlers and athletes who have qualified for the Olympics are preparing at Patiala now - but they barely have the scientific backup that they so desperately need, reports Indraneel Das.
By Indraneel Das | Hindustan Times, Patiala
UPDATED ON JUL 18, 2008 12:44 AM IST

At a time, when the world is relying on statisticians, video analysts and high-performance labs for enhancing performance, with countries doing all they can to get the edge over others, and the Olympics just around the corner, India’s premier sports institute, the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, doesn’t have a nutritionist, a physiologist or a psychologist. The country’s elite athletes train here - boxers, wrestlers and athletes who have qualified for the Olympics are preparing at Patiala now - but they barely have the scientific backup that they so desperately need.

Since the athletes have to maintain their body weight at specified levels without losing power or stamina, it is surprising that there is no nutritionist available for consultation. The only people they can look to for advice are their coaches, trainers and physiotherapists.

An athlete bound for the Olympics, and did not want to be named for obvious reasons, said that he had got used to the system. “We are just concentrating on our preparations and not letting such thoughts bother us.” He, however, added that the presence of a nutritionist would definitely have helped. Even a foreign coach felt that his wards would have benefited greatly from more scientific backup. “In order to succeed in the big stage we need scientific backup,” said a coach who is also playing the roles of nutritionist and psychologist. Sometimes they even have to do the work of a masseur. “There is no qualified masseur either,” sources revealed.

According to sources, most of the scientists resigned because of mass transfers three years ago. Poor pay packages and stagnation simply compounded matters.

When asked, Dr Ashok Ahuja, head of the department of sports medicine, did not want to comment, but said reluctantly, “We don’t have much choice here. We don’t have the manpower. More than the Olympics, we should be thinking about the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.” Ahuja felt a dire need for manpower to improve scientific training in our country. “We need to introduce courses on sports nutrition and sports psychology so that we can acquire their services here.”

What’s even more surprising is that the institute — which holds the most national camps - has just one sports medicine doctor for its trainees.

The Bangalore SAI Centre is no different either. Even there, where other athletes have been practicing for the Olympics, there is just one doctor. Though they have a nutritionist in Bangalore, the Centre does not have a bio-chemist or a psychologist. In Kolkata, the SAI Centre has three doctors.

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