Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Injeti Srinivas has raised concerns over poor fitness and below par performances by some athletes during the Rio Olympics in his assessment report, which has been submitted to the sports ministry for further evaluation. The role of foreign coaches too is under scanner, with their appointment procedure likely to be overhauled.
While not taking any names, Srinivas has questioned the fitness levels of the athletes in his report while also pointing fingers at the respective sports federations as well as SAI for not keeping a close eye on them. In his three-page report, Srinivas has noted that ‘some athletes have shown physical fitness issues, which is certainly a matter of concern and reflects on inadequate monitoring.’
A sports ministry official said some players tried to ‘mask’ their injuries while the others could have updated them about their issues before the Games began. SAI and ministry had projected Saina Nehwal, Vikas Gowda and Yogeshwar Dutt as medal prospects.
However, Saina lost in the group stage owing to a knee injury — for which she later got operated — while discus thrower Gowda, who ‘passed’ a fitness test just before the Games, later blamed a knee injury for his below-par performance. Questions are being raised of Yogeshwar’s fitness as well following his first-round exit in the 65kg category.
The SAI and sports ministry fell way short of their projection of 10 to 14 medals from the Games after India managed to return with just a silver and bronze from Rio.
Describing the performance as ‘lacklustre’, Srinivas has refrained from proposing any radical changes, but has called for some streamlining in the government’s funding process while asking for a hike in the budget at the same time. The government spent approximately Rs 36 crore in the last 18 months for the preparations for the Rio Games, most of which came at the last minute.
Coaches under scanner
The biggest casualties, however, seem to be the foreign coaches. “Performance of coaches, especially foreign coaches, needs to be evaluated very minutely,” Srinivas wrote in his report. “Hiring of foreign coaches should be done very carefully based on strong and proven track record.”
It is learnt that apart from jump coach Bedros Bedrosian, middle and long distance coach Nikolai Snesarev and javelin coach Gary Calvert, none will be retained in athletics while the contracts of others might not be reviewed. SAI will take a final decision on the issue in consultation with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
SAI is also likely to review the contract of men’s hockey team chief coach Roelant Oltmans despite the team’s encouraging performance at the Olympics. Oltmans’ contract expires in January 2017. “I stay on as coach until January 1 (2017). That is when my contract is expiring. What will happen after that has not been discussed yet, so I cannot say anything about it,” Oltmans had said in an interview after the Olympics.
The appointment process of foreign coaches, too, might be strictly monitored by SAI and the sports ministry. Till now, the government approved the name suggested by the respective federation without having a direct say in the process. “Now on, we have proposed that the government should be involved. There should be advertisements about vacant posts rather than doing it discreetly,” a ministry official said. “Consequently, we have a lot of foreign coaches in India who aren’t exactly big names. The selection process of foreign coaches has to be minutely observed so that we can bring the best coaches here,” he added.
While there is no mention of it in the report, the SAI is also mulling to put an end to the practice of athletes hiring personal coaches. Several athletes, mainly in shooting and track and field events, might be impacted if the policy comes into force. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and Athletics Federation of India are already mulling the option of limiting the involvement of personal coaches.
Rio Review: Key points of SAI report
Element of progression noted in certain disciplines but that has been ‘negated by the regression in terms of medal tally.’
Fitness issues of some athletes a ‘matter of concern’, which reflects on inadequate monitoring (by federations and SAI).
‘Serious concerns’ raised over the ‘below-par’ performances of some athletes, in terms of personal best.
Streamlining required in funding projects like the Target Olympic Podium Scheme. Overall enhancement of budget.
Performances of coaches, mainly foreign coaches, needs to be evaluated ‘very minutely.’