Post Rio, it’s time for post mortem. As the dust settles over India’s disastrous performance at the Olympics, the federations have now gone into the review mode to analyse where it all went wrong.
On Thursday, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) constituted a four-member committee with Abhinav Bindra as its chairman to examine in a ‘cold and ruthless manner’ the reasons of India’s debacle. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has decided to take a stock of their flop show next week while the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) too has hinted at focussing on wrestlers who are young in age for the Tokyo Olympics.
Shooting and wrestling are two disciplines where India were expected to return with medals. While the shooters returned empty handed, Sakshi Malik won a solitary medal for India in wrestling. However, the tally in the sport came down from the London Games, where Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt won a silver and bronze medal respectively.
The NRAI has mandated its committee, which includes former tennis player and administrator Manisha Malhotra and two journalists apart from Bindra, to look into every aspect of the Indian team’s performance. While their overall aim is to make the system more centralised, the federation’s primary focus seems to be on remodelling the coaching system.
Bindra, who finished fourth in the 10m air rifle event in Rio, has been allowed to recuse himself from questioning fellow athletes as he was himself a part of the team. The first meeting is likely to be held at the end of August.
The committee is mandated to examine three main points: shooters hiring unproven personal coaches; them working under foreign coaches who are not with the national team; and kin of players being accepted as coaches by the government.
While they did not name anyone directly, the last point hints towards 10m air pistol shooter Heena Sidhu. She is coached by her husband Ronak Pandit, who was also named as the manager of the shooting team for the Rio Olympics by the sports ministry. In its brief to the review committee, NRAI president Raninder Singh has stated: “(to examine) the effect or otherwise of kith/kin being accepted by government as coaches of athletes and the practice of kith/kin accompanying athletes privately or otherwise during and for competitions overseas.”
Another factor the NRAI is looking at is the engagement of shooters with ‘unproven personal coaches’. A NRAI official said hiring a personal coach isn’t imperative and a decision on whether to have a more centralised system will be taken on the basis of the reccomendations made by the committee.
Raninder, in his order, has also mentioned the role of private non-profit organisations like the Olympic Gold Quest, Lakshya Foundation, Anglian Medal Hunt and Go Sports, who fulfil a shooter’s requirement should also be examined. He has written the mental trainers and short-term coaches employed by shooters via ‘private sponsorship adds third dimension to an athletes mind and induces conflict with NRAI/SAI, if any’.
“(Examining) Effect of non benign private sponsorship organisations contracting athletes directly without any form of coordination with NRAI and the effect it has on the athletes capability to focus on the core issues of training and working to an NRAI-driven programme…” the mandate reads.
Not just the private organisations, the NRAI is also examining the role of the Services. Several army shooters train seperately under the Army coach, which the federation believes creates confusion. “Effect of running parallel training programme for Services athletes by introducing/ensuring that such athletes work with foreign coaches that are not the national foreign coaches and resultant confusion the athletes have had to deal with, if any,” the order to the committee states.
The NRAI is stung after a woeful performance by the shooters, who could not win a medal for the first time since Sydney Olympics. Raninder has asked the committee to identify the reason why shooters lack endurance – physical and mental – towards the end of each match. Selection of shooters on the basis of reputation too is an issue that is likely to be discussed.
Athletics, wrestling review
Wrestling Federation of India president Brijbhushan Sharan, too, said they will focus on younger wrestlers for the Tokyo Games, having experienced a significant change in the nature of the sport at Rio. “Young wrestlers have been more successful. One of the reasons Sakshi Malik was successful is her power. She was trailing till the last few seconds but she used her power. That has been the general trend this time,” he said.
Sharan said the federation erred by not ensuring the wrestlers got to participate in a couple of tournaments just before the Olympics due to the Narsingh Yadav saga. He added the freestyle team in particular was extremely distracted due to the court case filed by Sushil Kumar demanding a trial and then Narsingh’s failed to dope test. “Eventually, we could not match our performance at the London Olympics so it is very disappointing,” he said.
Like shooting, Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla, too, has said coaches who haven’t been able to deliver might be asked to quit. India sent its biggest-ever track and field contingent, comprising 29 athletes, but apart from Lalita Babar in 3000m steeplechase and marathoners T Gopi and Kheta Ram, there were few positives.
Sumariwala said they will review the performance next week. “Chief coach will give us a report and we will study it. Those who have not performed upto expectations will have to give a proper explanation. Those coaches who have not been able to delivery could be asked to leave.”