Athletes on collision course with AFI

Athletes are heading for a major confrontation with the Athletics Federation of India, which has said if they skip national camps they will not be allowed to take part in selection meets ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

Asian 400m champion Muhammed Anas is one of the many athletes who want to train individually and not at the national camp.   -  Special Arrangement

Despite being a small bunch, this is a camp loaded with stars. P.B. Jaikumar is probably the envy of some of the top coaches in national camps. For though he is not a national camp coach, he has shaped some little-known names into Asian stars at his Thiruvananthapuram base.

There is the Asian 400m champion Muhammed Anas, also the national record-holder and a lead national mile-relay team runner, there is Indian women’s relay runner Anilda Thomas and then there is Anu Raghavan, Asian 400m hurdles silver medallist who is also relay team member.

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The problem is, they don’t want to go to the national camp, they prefer to work with Jaikumar who has consistently produced better results than national coaches.

Clearly, they are heading for a major confrontation with the Athletics Federation of India which has said that athletes who skip national camps will not be allowed to take part in selection meets ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

“I’m not going to the national camp and we are not the only ones who are not going, there are many others training outside too,” Olympian Muhammed Anas told Sportstar on Tuesday.

“Anilda too does not want to go. It is not that I don’t want to go, Jaikumar has been my coach for nearly five years and I am comfortable with him. I know problems are sure to come up now.”

Anu, who took the AFI to the High Court last year when she found her name missing from the Rio Olympics relay team, felt that the federation should find out athletes’ preferences before including them in the camp.

“I don’t wish to go,” said Anu. “No other country has a rule like this…they just train on their own and attend trials. Here, they have camp throughout the year.”

Anu said she found her name in the 4x400m relay camp despite telling federation officials that she was keen to focus on hurdles.

“I told them not to include my name in the relay camp so that there is no issue but they have included my name and if I don’t turn up, it becomes a problem,” said the 24-year-old.

“And they told me that if I don’t attend the camp, they will remove my name from the TOP (Target Olympic Podium) scheme list for the relays. And despite doing well in the hurdles, we don’t have a camp for hurdlers.”

The AFI had made it clear that it was willing to include Jaikumar in the national camp but the Kerala coach is not keen on going.

“I will go only if there are top quality coaches at the national camp, then I can learn something from them,” he explained.

“Even if they have the national camp in Thiruvananthapuram, I wouldn’t like to go. I’ve been seeing what our coaches (who are working under foreign coaches) are doing at camps, just standing and holding the stopwatch. I am not prepared to do that.”