Coaches pick up gauntlet

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On Monday night at least 30 renowned athletics coaches from throughout the State, led by respected seniors S. S. Kaimal and T. P. Ouseph, got together at a hotel conference hall in Kochi for a unique mission.

They were all disheartened by the sluggish progress of Kerala athletics, especially the not-so-happening post-London Olympics scenario, and wanted to bring radical changes to the existing system.

Ouseph, who trained Bobby Aloysius, former national record-holder in high jump, said it was about time the “experts” joined hands and pressed the government to facilitate international standard training in the State.

Coaches vowed to stay wedded to their cause and agreed to form the first of its kind ‘Kerala Athletics Coaches Association’ and decided to send a list of suggestions to the State Sports Department.
Three interesting ideas mooted by Prof. Roy John, Government Physical Education College, Kozhikode, were debated at the meeting:

1. Introduce mandatory physical fitness tests for all schoolchildren in the state. Pick the best and interested to train at best facilities available. The State cannot afford to miss talent.

2. The Government must form a mobile panel of physiotherapists, nutritionists and psychologists, who will offer services on a rotation basis to athletes in every district.

3. Set up different training facilities for each athletic discipline rather than go by the existing rule of ‘one teacher, many sports’.

Coaches were furious that the Government had kept them out of any planning for preparing future athletes, which they felt was “not productive”. Unanimously they said the State should promote “private academies”.

“Let the Government set up elite training facilities, but it must not be at the expense of private academies run by former athletes. Most academies in schools are the sole reason for the existence of athletics in Kerala and those must be promoted,” said renowned throw-events coach P. Radhakrishnan.

Many referred to sports minister K. B. Ganesh Kumar’s announcement that athletes would be sent abroad for specialised training.

Jumps specialist M. A. George, who trains Commonwealth medalist long jumper M. A. Prajusha, says what is good for Kerala athletes.

“I have my reservations on sending our athletes abroad. Most of them find it hard to adjust to the climate and food. Language is another issue so the practical side is to invite experts to the State and set up standard training facilities here,” said George.

Ouseph said it was not practical to prepare athletes for international competitions in almost every event.

“We must accept, the Jamaicans have strength in sprint and we don't have, it is not in our genes. But we can excel in various other events and we must form a priority list of events at the earliest,” he said.
It was the first time leading athletics coaches came together and thought about approaching the Government.

Hopefully if the State and coaches collaborate on a “genuine project”, it wouldn’t be overambitious to expect an athletics medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Tintu hungry for top-class events

Tintu Luka’s experience at the London Olympics has transformed her from a media-shy middle distance runner to one who is eager to explain what she needs to achieve her goals.

In her first-ever interview to a newspaper, the P.T. Usha protegee, who clocked a season best of 1:59.69 seconds in the Olympics 800 m semifinal, talks about her experience at the meet, her future and the challenges she faced during the Olympics preparations.

Excerpts from the interview:

How would you rate your experience while running with world-class athletes including Mariya Savinova and Caster Semenya?

A: Both the heats and the semifinal were some of the best competitive runs I have had until now.

Though I’ve run with these athletes at previous international meets, I got a better chance to interact with them.

All of them were very supportive and congratulated me after the race. Moreover, running with these athletes helped me to improve my time and get match experience. They were very cool about their race and I never saw being plagued by tension.

It was your first Olympic run and how did you cope with the stress?

A: I was a bit tensed up in the heats. But the motivation given by Usha chechi (P.T Usha) was great.

She showed me how Pistorius (Oscar Pistorius, a double below-knee amputee athlete) ran and told me that it is our mind that makes us powerful. After finishing third, my confidence level was higher when I went into the semifinal.

What was the major difference between you and those who qualified for the finals?

A: I need more international competitions. The main reason I did not qualify in the finals was the lack of experience in international meets.

As far as training is concerned, I consider I have one of the best trainers and the best facilities at the Usha School of Athletics.

But without participating in international meets, I will not be able to improve my timing. When I met foreign athletes, I realised their training techniques were similar to mine.

But when it came to competence in the race, I was held back. My inexperience in major competitions was evident in the heats itself. I would not have been boxed-in and would have finished with a better time in the first round of heats.

What do you see in Usha as her best quality?

A: She is very motivating. Moreover, she has a never-say-die attitude. Whatever the reason, she will never allow us to miss a training session.

Though I reached here (Kozhikode) on Sunday, she asked me to practise. She always says practice should be a continuous effort in sports.

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