Delay in procuring equipment, insufficient support staff, poor diet and unimaginative planning are hampering the training of javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, India’s brightest Olympic prospect and the winner of the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medals in 2018, his coach Uwe Hohn has said.
In a detailed email to The Sunday Express, that is a virtual SOS of sorts, legendary German thrower Hohn has written, “Because of the very bad support of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), we need help from people or companies who like to help ASAP because with every week, bit by bit, we lose chance to reach our high goals!”
Hohn, who trains Chopra and the country’s other elite javelin throwers at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala, lamented “how Neeraj’s success is celebrated and there is high hope that he wins a medal in Tokyo but still the support to him is so very bad”.
With less than two years to go for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the World Championships next year, these are crucial days of training for India’s star athlete. In 2018, the 21-year-old had the sixth best throw in the world and his effort of 88.06 metres got him the Asian Games gold at Jakarta. With Chopra inching closer to 90 metres, the barrier that almost guarantees an Olympic medal, 2019 will be his make or break year.
The 56-year-old’s email says Chopra’s preparations are far from ideal, with his repeated demands for a recovery system and top-quality javelins not met. It’s this frustration that had forced him to go public, he says.
“I contacted 2 javelin companies and sent my list of equipment to an office in Patiala. But when the company didn’t receive any order I checked last week and found out that this guy hadn’t even opened the mail I sent to him. That’s the way SAI is working!” he writes.
Hohn goes on to add that his team of javelin throwers is also suffering because they have just one recovery system. “I had organised two of them (recovery systems) for our team and SAI reimbursed me for those. Now we have just one and the other is with the 400-m team. Nobody likes to help us, no Athletics Federation of India (AFI), no SAI. SAI is a major problem. It’s been over 4 or 5 month since I made my demand but nothing has happened so far.”
Pointing out how his team of nine elite throwers doesn’t even get basic support, he says, “We have just 1 masseur for 9 male athletes and 1 girl for the female athletes in the camp here and sorry both are not good masseurs! Good massages are also important for a faster recovery, better training and better results.”
The only thrower in the history of the sport to hurl the javelin to 100 metres, Hohn hinted that other elite athletes at Patiala too had complaints. “All coaches here saying that their athletes need better nutrition, means better food but nothing changed during the last year!”
His long list of complains also includes scheduling and planning. “Training camps are either delayed or not happening. We can’t go (abroad for tournaments) earlier and don’t get a good block of days to train and fulfill our plans. They blame problems with visa for it but I can’t believe this,” he writes.
Hohn adds that his demand for an assistant coach has been met but that he feels “very bad to get him to India under these very bad circumstances”.
He concludes by writing: “Neeraj and all other athletes are very proud to compete for India and they like to make India proud of him but we need not only people who celebrate the success with him we need people who support him and the other javelin thrower in India!!!”
SAI Director General Neelam Kapur did not respond to text messages on Saturday.