NEW DELHI, July 22: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Wednesday extended the contract of 32 foreign coaches in 11 disciplines till September 30, 2021 to ensure continuity in athletes’ training with the same set of foreign experts until the postponed Tokyo Olympics. The contracts of many of the coaches were to end in September this year.
However, as reported by the TOI earlier, the contracts of three foreign coaches in athletics discipline – Yuri Minakov (throws), Bedros Bedrosian (horizontal jumps) and Anatoly Fatheyw (heptathlon) – haven’t been renewed by the SAI on the recommendation of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). The current employment contracts of seven foreign coaches in athletics, including the three, were to expire on August 31.
Sports minister Kiren Rijiju informed that the postponement of Tokyo Olympics by a year made it imperative for the government that the same coaches be retained so that athletes weren’t disadvantaged in any way. “A new coach takes time to understand an athlete and the athlete needs time to understand the training process of a coach. We don’t have that kind of time now,” the minister explained.
Rijiju had earlier announced that coaches, both India and foreign, will be hired for at least four years or one Olympic cycle to ensure continuity in training. The four-year contract will be handed out with an eye on the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. The interim extension of one year till 2021 is an immediate step to ensure athletes have the same coaches till the Tokyo Olympics.
The further extension of contract for four years will be decided on the basis of the performance of the coach and recommendation from the respective NSFs. The contracts, though for four years, will be reviewed annually and extended on the basis of a coach’s overall performance, indicated by the performance of athletes in major international events.
However, as India looks to resume more sports activities in coming weeks, its foreign coaches associated with prominent Olympics disciplines have been missing from the action. Some of them have either returned to their respective countries of origin and are now unwilling to travel back to India due to the rise in coronavirus cases here, a few others have been told by their national sports federations (NSFs) not to show up at training venues due to the ban on people above 65 years of age at the national camps.
The absence of some foreign experts due to these twin reasons has disturbed the training programme of NSFs and athletes alike, as they plan their training calendar following the graded easing of curbs in the nationwide lockdown. To begin with, in athletics discipline, two foreign coaches whose contracts have been renewed, quartermiler coach Galina Bukharina and biomechanics expert coach, Dr Klaus Bartonietz, are above 65 years.
AFI has started outdoor training activities for its core probables and Tokyo Olympics hopefuls at the NIS centre in Patiala and SAI’s regional centre in Bengaluru. But, according to the ministry of home affairs’ (MHA) guidelines on the covid-19 pandemic, the SAI can’t allow anyone above 65 from imparting training at the camps.
Similarly, reigning Asian Games and CWG champion javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra, and his teammate Shivpal Singh’s coach, Bartonietz, has flown back to Germany on an annual leave for one month to spend time with his family. Both javelin throwers no longer train with another German expert, Uwe Hohn. Neeraj, too, had left the training camp at the NIS for his home in Haryana’s Panipat district earlier this month, citing family reasons.
In boxing, women’s chief foreign coach, Raffaele Bergamasco, has returned home to Italy to be with his ailing wife undergoing treatment for cancer and isn’t scheduled to return anytime soon for the camp. In shooting, pistol coach, Pavel Smirnov, is above 65 years and has been told by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) not to attend the training camp as and when it resumes at the Karni Singh Shooting Range (KSSR). Skeet coach, Ennio Falco, only travels to India from his hometown in Italy for camps and tournaments, but with the international flight operations suspended and cases on the rise in the country, he, too, isn’t willing to join the squad.
In wrestling, India currently has only one foreign coach, Russian Temo Kasarashvili, employed with the Greco-roman discipline. The women’s freestyle wrestlers, including those who have qualified for Tokyo, will no longer find foreign specialist Andrew Cook by their side as the American has been sacked by the WFI over disciplinary grounds. The men’s freestyle grapplers don’t have any foreign expert after Iranian Hossein Karimi’s contract was terminated midway.
In football, head coach of the women’s under-17 team, Sweden’s Thomas Dennerby and his compatriot, fitness coach Per Karlsson, had flown back home in March itself on a special flight arranged by the Swedish government for their citizens in India and wouldn’t be returning back in coming months. (TNN)