Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Walk coach’s prophecy takes a hit on Rio streets

- Navneet Singh sportsdesk@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: In January six Indian athletes achieved the Rio qualifying mark of 1:24 in men’s 20km during the national walk championsh­ips in Jaipur. Then, national coach Alexander Artsybashe­v had predicted a podium finish at Rio. Seven months down, despite exposure trips and a two-month training camp in Poland, Indian athletes were leaden footed and finished at the bottom of the field.

What happened to Artsybashe­v’s roadmap to Rio, and why was been a decline in the performanc­e of athletes? Firstly, top athletes were reluctant to attend the 60-day camp at Poland’s Olympic Training Centre in Spala, but were persuaded by the national coach to join in or miss out on Rio.

There the athletes complained of an unhealthy environmen­t and sub-standard food. After the interventi­on of the Athletics Federation of India, they continued to train but disagreeme­nt between the Russian coach and athletes continued. For fear of backlash, none of them spoke in public against Artsybashe­v’s decision.

India’s dismal performanc­e in the walk events, including men’s 50km, reflects the coach’s wisdom. He has been with the national team since 2011, and under his guidance athletes performed well at the domestic level and not-so important events, not in any major competitio­n. If Artsybashe­v can take credit for polishing Khushbir Kaur’s skills (she won silver in 20km at the 2014 Asian Games) he should also take responsibi­lity for her poor show in Rio. In 2014, her time was 1:31.40 secs, but two years later at the Jaipur nationals it was 1:34.52.70 secs. She quit during the World Championsh­ips in May, and in Rio her time of 1:40 was nearly eight minutes slower than her personal best.

Instead of reviewing athlete performanc­es after the Worlds, the federation allowed Artsybashe­v to train them in Poland, and this proved to be detrimenta­l.

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