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Minara Begum gutted after being axed as coach of Tokyo-bound gymnast Pranati Nayak

Minara Begum, a veteran SAI trainer who has been training Pranati Nayak since she was 8, says she is disappointed that her name does not figure in India’s Tokyo Olympics contingent.

Written by Subhasish Hazra, SS Manoj | Kolkata, Trivandrum |
Updated: May 23, 2021 9:57:45 pm
Veteran SAI coach Minara Begum (right) with Pranati Nayak, the lone Indian gymnast who has qualified for Tokyo Olympics. (Credit: Minara Begum)

The future of the Tokyo Olympics is in the balance after a fresh wave of Covid-19 in Japan. Opinion is divided on whether the country should stage the sports extravaganza at all.

In India, Pranati Nayak, the lone gymnast from to qualify for the Olympics, might be facing a different battle — she will be heading to Tokyo without her long-time coach and mentor Minara Begum, who has been coaching her for the last 18 years.

Minara, a veteran SAI trainer, has been left in the lurch by Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI), as her name does not figure in India’s contingent. SAI coach Lakhan Sharma, who has been training Pranati since Minara retired from SAI, will be travelling with the gymnast to the Tokyo Games.

“I’m feeling depressed. What else can I say,” a fuming Minara told indianexpress.com.

The veteran coach has been training Pranati since she was eight, and much of the gymnast’s success at the international level can be attributed to Minara’s training.

A bronze medallist in the 2019 Senior Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships, Pranati was the second reserve behind Sri Lanka’s Milka Gehani for the Asian quota. She thus became eligible to compete in the World Championship held in Stuttgart in October, 2019 where she secured the Olympic berth in the four apparatus of the All-Around competition.

Pranati Nayak was a bronze medallist at the 2019 Senior Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships. (Credit: Minara Begum)

However, despite Pranati qualifying for the Olympics, it seems the fight is far from over for Minara, as she has been dropped as coach by the GFI.

“Every coach and athlete wants to participate in the Olympics. That remains the biggest dream for anyone associated with the sport. I gave my everything for the sake of Pranati for the past 18 years. Now I am being shown the exit door. Someone else is going in my place. It is really frustrating,” said Minara, who retired from SAI in February 2019.

READ | Vaulting from Midnapore to Tokyo: Pranati Nayak

“(Retirement) should not be seen as a constraint when you consider and approve the coaches,” said Lopamudra Chaudhuri, a former gymnast who opposed the official decision to go with Lakhan, who is 27 years old.

The gymnast from Tripura said, “Minara Begum was working as a national coach even after she retired from the SAI post. She was Pranati’s coach for Senior Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships (held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia during April, 2019) and World Championship (at Stuttgart during October, 2019). Now just before the Olympics, she is dropped as a coach. Retirement can never be a factor. We must protest against the federation’s (GFI) decision which cannot be justified.”

‘Gymnast proposed, GFI accepted’

Pranati, however, confirmed that she is fine with the new arrangement. “I’m fine with the new trainer,” said the confident gymnast, 26, who hails from Midnapore.

GFI president Sudhir Mital also echoed the sentiments of the gymnast, while denying that Minara has been axed as coach.

“The gymnast (Pranati Nayak) herself said she has more confidence in the person she is training with at the moment (Lakhan Sharma). Ultimately, if the gymnast is to give her best, then she should have confidence in the coach who is accompanying her (to Tokyo). There is no question of axing Minara. That is unthinkable. That would not be charitable at all to Minara who has done so much for Indian gymnastics, Sudhir Mital told indianexpress.com.

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