India’s race walkers way behind as Tokyo qualification looms

The contract of Russian expert Alexander Artsybashev, who had been overseeing the camp since 2011, expired in September and since then a former international, Harminder Singh, is overseeing training.
File image of Manish Singh Rawat.(Twitter)
File image of Manish Singh Rawat.(Twitter)
Updated on Dec 22, 2018 12:02 PM IST
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New Delhi | By

Race walkers are lagging in the race to be ready for the first Tokyo Olympics qualification event scheduled at Chennai in February, mainly because a foreign coach is yet to be shortlisted for them.

The contract of Russian expert Alexander Artsybashev, who had been overseeing the camp since 2011, expired in September and since then a former international, Harminder Singh, is overseeing training.

Artsybashev didn’t produce any earth-shattering results, with the saving grace being Khushbir Kaur’s silver in women’s 20km at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and Manish Singh Rawat’s 13th-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) too had expressed its desire to change the foreign coach, with its secretary CK Valson saying sometime back that, “We aren’t satisfied with Artsybashev results.”

There was dissatisfaction among athletes too with many complaining to the AFI earlier this year that the Russian coach’s training style wasn’t helping them improve. Some athletes, including Sandeep Kumar (50km), shifted to Patiala from the national camp in Bengaluru.

But what probably sealed Artsybashev’s fate was KT Irfan and Rawat’s disqualification due to technical violation (foot losing contact with the ground), along with Soumya Baby, national record holder in women’s 20km, and Sandeep Kumar, national champion in 50km, at the Asian Games in Jakarta. Soumya, in fact, was also disqualified at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

A top athlete said that the Asian Games preparation under the Russian expert wasn’t good as the “emphasis in the camp was more on speed and less on technique”.

As things stand, the preparatory camp was recently shifted to Patiala from Bengaluru. While Rawat and Irfan, in the men’s section, and Priyanka in the women’s section have reported for the camp, Khushbir is yet to join.

The AFI, after failing to rope in Australian Dave Smith in 2017, are treading cautiously in their bid for a new coach. In fact, in the absence of options, the federation might have to unwillingly fall back upon Artsybashev.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Navneet Singh, who has been a journalist for 15 years, is part of the Delhi sports team and writes on Olympic sports, particularly athletics and doping. .

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