PT Usha is prepared to allow her star athlete Tintu Luka to train under a foreign coach or abroad if the 26-year-old wishes to do so. However, Usha said that the coach, identified to train Tintu, must guarantee her an Olympic medal. “Tintu is free to train under a foreign coach or at a training centre abroad if she is keen to do so. I will never tie down Tintu to the Usha School of Athletics. However, it should not result in Tintu’s performances deteriorating. Rather the coach must promise that Tintu will win an Olympic medal,” Usha said on Monday.
Usha has been training Tintu, the national record holder in the 800 metres and two-time Asiad medallist, since 2002 and believes her ward is someone who should be ‘handled with care’.
“Coaching Tintu has its unique challenges and only a coach who understands her needs and requirements can bring the best out of her,” Usha added. “My dream is to see India winning an Olympic medal. Whether it comes from Tintu or my other promising trainees like Jishna Mathew, Shaharbana Sidhique or Jessy Joseph, I will be happy if one of them wins an Olympic medal.” Usha said that there was not enough evidence of foreign coaches making a difference to Indian athletes or of substantial improvement in the performances of Indian athletes who trained abroad.
“Our Indian athletes have gone to Germany, USA, Kenya and other countries to train under foreign coaches but none of them have been able to win an Olympic medal. I have trained Tintu and brought her to this level. I am confident that Tintu will improve further,” Usha added.
Tintu, an Incheon and Guangzhou medal winner, achieved her personal best of 1:59.17 nearly five years ago and only won her first ever international gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in Wuhan earlier this month.
Her season best of 2:01.53 achieved at Wuhan — currently the 52nd best time in the world this season — helped her qualify for the World Championships to be held in August. Meeting the qualifying mark for the Rio Olympics, which stands at 2:01.00 is Tintu’s next objective.
Usha, however, is upset about the funding allocated for Tintu under the sports ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (Tops). “Yesterday we received a letter that Tintu has been allocated Rs 30 lakh under Tops scheme. I want to ask why there is discrimination when it comes to Tintu. Isn’t she a medal prospect? Vikas Gowda (discus throw) has been allocated Rs 90 lakh under Tops, some shooters and wrestlers are getting over Rs 1 crore. At the Usha School of Athletics we spend close to Rs 30 lakh on Tintu every year and the money is not enough to meet her training needs. Tintu deserves more funding, especially with the Olympics coming up next year.”