INDIA HAS all but signed up javelin great Uwe Hohn as the national coach, but for a small hitch. The 6’ 6” German, the only man with a 100m-plus throw, has an unusual condition that is awaiting clearance from the Sports Authority of India (SAI). The 55-year-old wants business class tickets for all official trips that are more than four hours long since his large frame — he weighs 120 kg — and long legs get cramped in economy class seats.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which is keen to see the German legend train potential international medal winners — World Junior champion Neeraj Chopra and World Championship finalist Davinder Singh Kang — has forwarded Hohn’s request to SAI, the body that pays and decides on the emoluments and perks of foreign coaches.
In this case, SAI will have to make an exception. “Our policy allows only economy-class travel but Hohn’s request is under consideration,” said a SAI official. For starters, SAI will have to approve business-class travel for his Berlin-Frankfurt to New Delhi trip as Hohn is scheduled to take charge next month. The AFI has been in talks with Hohn since May but his unusual request has delayed the finalising of the contract.
“We are positive that Uwe Hohn will come to India to coach the javelin team. We have recommended his name, and SAI and government have cleared it. The only hitch is the business-class travel request but it should not be an issue in the larger interests of Indian athletics as he is a world-class coach,” said Adille Sumariwalla, president, AFI.
Chopra had earlier spoken about the need to have a full-time coach after he failed to reach the final of the World Championships. “Having a coach will be beneficial because there is an expert with you who can tell you what you are doing wrong, what you need to focus on and how you should plan your schedule. Currently, I am asking senior throwers for advice or figuring it out myself,” he said.
Hohn’s 100m-plus throw — at the Olympic Day event in Berlin in 1984 — was a watershed event in the sport since it forced track and field officials to alter the centre of gravity of the javelin so that it wouldn’t be a threat to athletes running on the track during competition.
The Indian team is in dire need of a foreign coach to train a batch of young javelin throwers, including Chopra, as the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games will be held in 2018. The last appointee Australian Garry Clavert moved to China.
Clavert coached Chopra when he won the World U-20 gold in Bydgoszcz, Poland, last year. He wanted a contract extension till the Tokyo Games and a 50 per cent hike in salary, both conditions SAI was not ready to consider till the World Championships, which were held in London in July, concluded.