Sacked by India for not talking about US selection methods, says wrestling coach Andrew Cook
Andrew Cook, the sacked US coach of the Indian women’s wrestling team, has said he was let go for not agreeing to discuss American selection methods in online training classes organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“In this time of economic meltdown due to global pandemic we couldn’t justify his salary as he (Cook) wasn’t regular in attending online classes run by SAI,” the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said in a statement on Thursday while announcing Cook’s termination.
A day later, Cook, who is back in the US, said he had worked sincerely, especially in training the junior national campers at SAI’s Lucknow centre.
“They wanted me out even though I worked hard for the betterment of women wrestlers in India. I attended the classes. They asked me to speak on athletes’ selection in the US, which isn’t a thing (I deal with). I only asked them to change the topic of the online classes,” Cook said on Friday.
“We don’t select athletes (in the US); they attend school and work through that system. They (WFI) declined to change the topic, making me look defiant, I guess. I attended everything they required and did extra with classes for the (government’s) National Centre of Excellence programme,” he said.
“I have big passion for wrestling, especially Indian wrestling. So, this is shocking and disappointing. I helped make many medals come in the short time they allowed me to work. It’s too bad of them, but I will have no problem finding work elsewhere.”
Cook took up the India job in early 2019. He left for the US on March 17, a week before the nationwide lock down began. Cook said he was yet to be informed he has been terminated.
“I read this on the wire last night; I still have no communication from SAI or the Wrestling Federation of India about termination of my contract so early. I don’t know what they thought about my working style, but I always tried to be a big help… I can proudly say Indians won eight international medals during my stint.
“I would love to work with the Indian wrestlers if given a chance again, but right now I am not sure what to do next.” Cook said salary wasn’t an issue - he was paid R3 lakh a month - and that he never tried to change the wrestling style of any of the top athletes, including 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik.
“I always found the Indians best among the lot of top wrestlers in the world. I can’t blame the senior wrestlers for my sacking. My job was to let everyone in the camp (train) and help them sharp their skills,” said Cook, confirming he has received his salary till May.
“It’s a big lie that I was more focused on my salary and was not paying attention on training. The authorities concerned didn’t want me to speak to the media, and I never said anything against anyone - SAI, players or the federation. I know there is lot of talk about me in the media in India, but they aren’t true.
“I only stand up for myself when they treat me bad, not pay me, etc... We made history with our last performance and there was only more to come. It’s really disappointing.”
Some junior wrestlers in the national camp read more into it. “Since all seniors had their (personal) coaches, they never bothered to follow Cook’s directives,” a cadet wrestler said on condition of anonymity. “He (Cook) always expected discipline, but most seniors never bothered,” she added.
A local SAI official, who did not wish to be identified, said: “Some of the wrestlers dictate terms on the SAI campus and attend training at their convenience.”