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SAI project preparing sprinters for 2020 Olympics running at a snail’s pace

The academy, set for preparing sprinters for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, is a joint venture between Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)

other sports Updated: Sep 07, 2017 13:50 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
SAI,Sports authority of India,Athletics Federation of India
Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Athletics Federation of India’s high performance athletics academy, set up to prepare sprinters for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, was inaugurated in October last year.(IOC)

The high performance athletics academy, established last year at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi with a specific goal to nurture athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is yet to function in a full-fledged manner. In fact, the project, meant for sprinters, is crawling.

Potential athletes (men and women in the age group of 18-20 years) in the 100 and 400 metres sprint and hurdles disciplines were selected to train them for the next Olympic Games.

However, the joint venture between Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), is reeling.

What went wrong?

When SAI signed a MoU with the IAAF in October 2015, the international body’s chief, Sebastian Coe, assured it will provide a quality coaching system as well as conduct coaches education programme twice a year to upgrade the knowledge base of the experts overseeing the project.

However, the world governing body didn’t back the initiative when the academy was launched in October last year. That more-or-less sealed the fate of the project. The IAAF hasn’t responded to an e-mail sent by HT asking why it backed out of the project.

Lack of planning

It seems, the AFI too failed to chalk out a comprehensive plan for the academy.

Initially, the AFI recommended 60 athletes, but later, the list was pruned down to 40. Only half of the 40 reported for the project and after six months, the number came down to ten.

Adille Sumariwala, president of the AFI, said the federation has plans to scout new talent during the national inter-district junior athletics championship at Visakhapatnam starting from November 24.

“Since junior athletes are not very keen to stay at the academy, we plan to select athletes in under-16 age group this time,” said Sumariwala.

The athletes from the academy, according to the AFI, will also get a direct entry to national level competitions, which should be an added draw for the youngsters.

Since the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is one of the venues for the October 6-28 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, training often gets disrupted and the two coaches overseeing the project, Harkawaljit Singh for sprint and Sombir Singh for hurdles, who are both retired SAI athletics experts, found it challenging to motivate the youngsters.

The role of the SAI was to provide the best of facilities.

“But there were teething problems like lack of scientific staff, a good masseur, and these things were never planned or addressed when the project was launched,” said one of the trainees.

Injeti Srinivas, Union sports secretary, said the government can only provide the facilities, and that it’s up to federation to take the responsibility. “The project isn’t moving in the right direction. There are some problems,” he told HT.

First Published: Sep 07, 2017 13:50 IST

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