A fortnight ago, national jumps coach Bedros Bedrosian paid a visit to the Medical College ground in Palakkad where the national camp was relocated to ensure long jumper Sreeshankar Murali, 19, could continue his studies uninterrupted in his home town.
But the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) plan to put the Romanian coach in charge of the rising star and national record holder has come a cropper because Bedros, appalled by the lack of facilities — there is no gymnasium at the stadium — not only decided not to train Sreeshankar but has also put in his papers. Sreeshankar too was not keen to train under Bedros and told the foreign coach frankly that he would like to be coached by his father Murali, who is a former national triple-jumper. Sreeshankar was pursuing engineering but shifted to B.Sc in Mathematics at Palakkad’s Victoria College to focus on the sport.
“I forwarded my resignation letter to the Athletics Federation of India after going to Palakkad and looking at the facilities. I cannot train an athlete in such a place. There is no gymnasium at the stadium and we will have to use a private one. The facilities are not of standard and there are a large number of people who use the track and they are not necessarily athletes. Moreover, Sreeshankar does not want to move out of Palakkad. At the moment I have no athletes to train so what is the point in me continuing,” Bedros told The Indian Express.
Neena Varakil, the Asian Games silver-medal winner in the women’s long jump, was to train alongside Sreeshankar in Palakkad but with the coach offering to quit, she will have to find another training base. The AFI had promised to help improve the facilities in Palakkad but Bedros is of the opinion that any upgradation would take a long time. “It can’t be done overnight. Lots needs to be done,” Bedros added.
It is not only Sreeshankar who has opted not to train under Bedros. Triple jump gold medallist at the Asian Games Arpinder Singh decided to move base to Patiala after returning from Jakarta while Neena has credited her husband Pinto Mathew for finishing on the podium. With Nayana James, who qualified for the Asiad but is not part of the national camp now, not open to training under Bedros in the past, the coach has been left with no wards to train.
AFI secretary CK Valson said that the current predicament has come as a surprise. “The last time we had a discussion with Bedros he was ready to move to Palakkad to train Sreeshankar and Neena. The athletes were also ready to train under him. We have to find a way to resolve the issue,” Valson said.
The AFI secretary added that it would be wise for the coach to be patient. “If there are issues with facilities in Palakkad we will improve it. But it will take a little time. After agreeing to move to Palakkad it is not right for the coach to resign. Things don’t work that way. I hope he reconsiders his decision,” Valson added.
Bedros said he would take a three-month break before assessing his future. “I hope that the AFI will be able to convince athletes to train with me. I am waiting to hear from them. I am not happy with the current situation at the national camp,” Bedros added.
The AFI had plans to hire an additional foreign jump coach with Bedros assigned to Sreeshankar and Neena.