Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has assured all support to India’s brightest Olympics prospect, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, after his German coach Uwe Hohn complained of “very bad support” from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) that has allegedly led to delays in delivery of equipment, clearance for foreign trips and recruitment of support staff.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rathore said he had been in touch with various agencies involved in the training of India’s elite athletes. “I was asking everyone and finding out what happened. They have their version but I want to put that aside. We are cutting the bureaucratic procedures. I will be taking certain issues to the Cabinet to empower the Sports Authority of India to hire the best people. We want to expedite processes and get the best expertise to support these sportspersons,” he said.
Rathore, the Olympic silver medallist shooter-turned-politician, said he would “leave no stone unturned for our Olympics hopes”. The Minister hinted though that he would need the support of sports federations in reaching out to athletes with Olympics dreams. “This requires a collaborated effort in terms of planning with the athletics federation. The funding of coaches comes from us, the funding of travel comes from us, but for utilisation of coaches, how many athletes they will train, the various travel coordination, how many days and where they will train… those micro nitty-gritty aspects have to be left to the federations. So we are in the pursuance of a perfect model, we are on to it and we are hopeful,” he said.
However, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has said that it had no complaints with how SAI has been working in this crucial period in the lead-up to big events in the next two years.
”The AFI is happy with the support of the Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India over the years. However, when it comes to procurement and processes, we wish that it happened faster,” AFI president Adille Sumariwala said.
Last week, Chopra’s coach Hohn, in an email to The Indian Express, had expressed frustration over the lack of support from SAI, and sought help from “people or companies”. He also said that time was running out since “every week, bit by bit, we lose chance to reach our high goals!”
With Chopra preparing for the World Championship next year and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, these are crucial days of training for the star athlete. Hohn pointed out that he didn’t have enough javelins or recovery machines while nine of his trainees were banking on just one masseur, who allegedly wasn’t good enough.
”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 wrote.
A day after Hohn’s complaint, Chopra spoke about the delays, too. “Our plan to go abroad for training has been getting delayed. That’s one of the reasons why the coach made those comments. We hope that will be done quickly,” he told news agency ANI. Rathore said Hohn’s complaints were being dealt with. “The Sports Authority of India has already issued instructions for immediate procurement and cutting down on the procedure of procuring competition javelins and training javelins. They already have some but wanted more, which will be immediately procured. We will support whatever the federation decides,” he said.
The Minister said the issue of support staff was being addressed, too. “Even in terms of sports science support — be it masseurs, physiotherapist and everything else — we have been getting them from India and abroad, the best ones,” he said.