Less than a fortnight after Australia-born javelin coach of the Indian team Garry Calvert put in his resignation papers after he was not given a contract extension till the Tokyo Games, another Australian coach has decided against travelling to India. Earlier this month, sports minister Vijay Goel had approved the appointment of walk coach Dave Smith, along with 400 metre coach Galina P Bukharina and two masseurs for the athletics squad. However, a day after he obtained his Indian visa and was scheduled to travel, the two time Olympian has had a change of heart.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had decided to hire Smith because with a growing pool of walkers it was becoming difficult for Russian Alexander Artsybashev to manage the workload. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) had also completed the vetting process. “The AFI has written to Smith asking why he has decided not to travel to India at the last moment. He has cited his son’s wedding as the reason. But that is not an acceptable reason,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said on Thursday. It is learnt that on obtaining his visa, Smith had written to SAI asking them to send him his tickets. But a day later, the Australian seems to have changed his mind.
“He wants to come to India as a consultant. But that will not work for us as we have walkers who need full-time coaching,” Sumariwalla added. The process of appointing a coach — advertising on the federation’s website, shortlisting the applicants and vetting the applications, drafting a contract – takes at least two months. But with Smith deciding against taking up his role as India coach, the AFI has lost out on previous time with the World Championships in August. Smith’s son Dane Bird-Smith participated at the Rio Olympics in the 20k walk and was coached by his father.
Calvert, the javelin coach, has been named as one of the four coaches who will be with the Indian team which will participate in the three-legs of the Asian Grand Prix which begins in Jiaxing on April 24. Men’s 400m national record holder Mohammed Anas and Poovamma Raju, the 2014 Incheon Asian Games women’s 400m bronze medallist, will join rest of the team for the last-leg of the competition in Chinese Taipei at a later stage. Both Anas and Poovamma were not issued their China visa.
National record holder in the high jump, Tejaswin Shankar, 18, will not be participating in the Asian GP as he sustained a back injury during training. The 16-member Indian athletics team will also comprise Dutee Chand, the national record holder in the women’s 100 metres. Reena George is the other woman sprinter in the squad while Vidyasagar Siddarajanayaka will participate in the men’s 100 metres. Tintu Luka in women’s 800m, Manpreet Kaur in women’s shot put and javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra and Ravinder Singh are part of the Indian squad.