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Running is fine, but life skills training for Indian athletes need of the hour

L Suriya and her teammates’ troubles whilst talking to the media after the Delhi Half Marathon raises the issue of giving these athletes some training before they interact with the media

other sports Updated: Nov 19, 2017 23:27 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Himdustan Times, New Delhi
Indian athletes,Delhi Half Marathon,Running
India's L Suriya crosses the finishing line to win the eighth position in women’s Delhi Half Marathon 2017 in New Delhi on Sunday. Suriya and her teammates’ troubles whilst talking to the media raises the issue of giving these athletes some training before they speak to the media. (PTI)

L Suriya won the 5,000-10,000 double at the South Asian Games in Guwahati early last year, and has since ruled the Indian women’s distance scene. But put her before the media, as she was on Saturday with Sudha Singh and the upcoming Parul Choudhary, they struggle for words.

Thus on Sunday, after the Tamil Nadu runner had won the Indian elite race with a new course record, she was asked about getting to keep the bonus, unlike the men who had to share after four dipped under the old mark.

“Tax katke panch lakh (Rs 5 lakh after tax, prize money and bonus combined),” she grinned as her audience, including those she had beaten, erupted in laughter. Suriya looked around, unsure whether it hadn’t come out properly.

A day earlier, the trio had stumbled through a media chat when asked even about their diet and training specifics. Indian women’s distance running is on the upswing, and the national campers do a weekly mileage of 280km under foreign coach Nikolai Snesarev, a hard taskmaster. This in altitude no less, although that makes such lucrative road races in the winter a breeze.

Even seasoned Olympian Sudha Singh, 31, admits motivation lessons will help in the all-round development of athletes, boosting their awareness that will help take on world-class rivals with confidence.

READ | Delhi Half Marathon: Winner Almaz Ayana lost in translation & missing fans

“Most of the long-distance girls are from villages and humble backgrounds. So, you can’t expect them to show that confidence,” said Sudha Singh, who is from Rae Bareli, UP.

“And most of them are not from families with educated members. In fact, our English has somewhat improved talking to Nikolai.”

Awareness among Indian athletes for starters will allow elite runners to discuss the finer points of training with the coach, rather than merely follow instructions. Road running itself is rapidly evolving globally.

Athletics is taking young Indian women from the hinterland around the world. Perhaps, the time has come for officials to take them beyond the beaten track.

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 23:27 IST