When OP Jaisha and Sudha Singh finished in the top-20 in the marathon at the World Championships in Beijing in August, and clocked timings that met Olympic qualifying norms, it was expected that the two women would feature in the road event at the Rio Games. However, there has been a rethink because the coach, Belarusian-born Nikolai Snesarev, and the two athletes were not on the same page with regard to the choice of events for the Rio Games.
The difference of opinion resulted in both Jaisha and Sudha threatening to quit the national camp — based in Bangalore at that point in time — unless Snesarev allowed them to train in their preferred event.
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Jaisha wanted to turn her attention back to the 5,000 while Sudha preferred the 3,000m steeplechase. There was a catch, though, as both had not qualified in the shorter distances for the Rio Games.
Since Snesarev returned to India last year, he has focussed on preparing Jaisha and Sudha for the marathon for the Rio Games and he was successful when they qualified for the Olympics.
Jaisha in particular impressed as she broke the national record twice in eight months. But the athletes, on realising that they had miles to go before they could finish in the top-10 at next year’s Games in the marathon, an event in which they started training for only a year ago, were reluctant to continue preparing for the 42-kilometre race. According to an Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official, things came to a boil between the coach and the athletes after they returned from the World Championships in late August.
“Both the athletes were not prepared to continue training for the marathon. They felt the work-out for the marathon was too extreme to undertake at this stage in their careers for an event as competitive as the Olympics. They were more confident about finishing in the top-10 in their pet events. They conveyed their opinion to the coach. But Snesarev insisted as they had qualified for Rio in the marathon and had shown potential, they should stick to the road event, even though they had started training for the event less than a year ago,” an AFI official said.
It is only after top AFI officials intervened and brokered peace between the coach and the athletes that a middle ground was found following which the athletes agreed to continue training under Snesarev.
The patch-up involved the coach allowing the athletes to train for the track events — for which they are yet to qualify for the Rio Games — but it came with a rider. By the end of the year the athletes must decide if they want to continue with their bid to qualify in the track events or re-focus on the marathon.
The dilemma arises because if these athletes continue to train for the track events but fail to qualify it will be too late to shift to preparing for the marathon closer to the Olympics because the work outs for events are different.
Snesarev has prepared separate training and competition schedules; the first for the track events and the second for the marathon. If the athletes decide to prepare for the 5,000 and 10,000 (Jaisha) and 3,000 steeplechase (Sudha) they will be based in Ooty and Bangalore till the end of February.
Following this, Snesarev has proposed the training base be shifted to US Olympic Training Centre in Chula Vista, California, and then to either the east coast or the west coast where a combination of high altitude and sea-level camps can be conducted. During their training stint in the United States, the coach has also proposed that the athletes, through the help of an IAAF certified agent, get entry into at least a dozen competitions.
If Jaisha and Sudha are to train for the marathon, they will be based in Bangalore and Ooty till early April, after which the camp will be shifted to London, where they will participate in the city’s marathon, before returning to India.
* Camps at the US Olympic training centre in Chula Vista or in London (marathon) in addition to Ooty and Bangalore.
* Accommodation in 4-5 star hotels.
* Business class air-tickets for athletes and coaching staff and allowance for extra luggage, including massage table.
* Allowance in budget for renting a car with driver and renting bicycles.
* Fee for IAAF agent for obtaining competition entry.
* Competition entry fees for up to 13 competitions and allowance for travelling for competitions and accommodation.
* Allowance for fruits and nuts as part of diet plan.
* Allowance for laundry and pocket money.