Athletics coach Nikolai Snesarev found dead at NIS Patiala hostel room
Middle and long-distance coach Nikolai Snesarev of Belarus, who was in India to prepare steeplechaser Avinash Sable for the Tokyo Olympics, was found dead in his hostel room at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. Athletics Federation of India in a statement said the 72-year-old “died with his boots on, having overseen his wards’ training this morning.”
“We are stunned by the news that coach Nikolai was found dead in his room today. He returned to India only a few days ago, having agreed to train steeplechaser Avinash Sable for the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” said AFI President Adille Sumariwalla.
“We will cherish his long association with Indian athletics and will miss him,” he said.
An AFI official said Snesarev came to India on February 25. He was based in Bengaluru and came to Patiala on March 2 as Sable was competing in Indian Grand Prix 3 on Friday. However, when Snesarev did not turn up at the ground even during Sable’s competition, officials went to his room to check on him and found it bolted from inside.
“He was supposed to come for Avinash’s event in the evening. When he did not come to the ground, enquiries were made. A coach was then sent to his room. He knocked for a long time but there was no response. The door was broken and he was on his bed as if he was sleeping with blankets on. The doctors at NIS Patiala immediately checked and said he had passed away. Police were informed and his body has been sent for post mortem,” the official said.
Snesarev had a long stint in India as coach starting in 2005. He had quit in 2019 after Sable preferred to train under his personal coach. However, he was recalled in January to train Sable and other middle and long distance runners for the Tokyo Olympics. His contract was till September.
He first came to India in 2005 and coached 10,000m runners Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut to a 1-2 finish in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and steeplechaser Sudha Singh to gold. It was the first time that Indian women won medals in the 25-lap race.
He played a key role in Lalita Babar shifting to steeplechase. Babar became the first Indian athlete to reach a track final in the Olympic Games since PT Usha in 1984 when she made it to the steeplechase final at Rio Olympics in 2016.
“He was a hard-taskmaster and one who developed his own training routines for his athletes. He was highly respected in the international circles and we were privileged that he shared a wonderful relationship with India,” said Sumariwalla.
“As someone who believed in research, he showed us the way with his pioneering efforts towards improving the endurance and speed of his athletes,” he said.