“Now it feels like home,” says James Hillier smiling, as the heavy rain finally tapers into a drizzle. The Calicut University Stadium now though resembles a vast field after a storm and heavy rain.
Little wonder Hillier is reminded of Bhubaneswar, which the English coach has made his home for the last three years. Shortly before the heavy rain stopped the action on the final day of the Federation Cup athletics, his ward Amlan Borgohain had broken the National record in the men’s 200m final.
Borgohain isn’t his only trainee that caught the eye at the meet. In the women’s 100m hurdles, Yarraji Jyothi had done so well, she had clocked a time much faster than the two-decade-old National record, but it was wind-assisted.
“So that makes a record and a half for our centre,” Hillier smiles.
He is referring to the Reliance Foundation Odisha High Performance Centre, where he is the head coach. The progress the trainees from the joint venture of the Government of Odisha and Reliance Foundation have been making shows there is scope for more such projects.“Yes, I think this model can be replicated elsewhere in India,” he says.
READ: Federation Cup: Borgohain storms into record books in heavy rain
He is delighted that his hard work at the academy is paying off. “We are all happy that we did well at this meet, winning three gold medals and a silver,” he says. “We targeted this competition. We wanted to do well here and make a statement.”
The statement has been loud and clear. Besides Borgohain and Jyothi, Siddhant Thingalaya also won the gold (men’s 110m hurdles). Moumita claimed the silver in the women’s 100m, making it a 1-2 for the foundation.
He is delighted that Borgohain set the National record and met the qualifying standard for the Asian Games. “We had a very specific race plan,” he says. “Amlan executed that well. I am happy with his performance here, but not satisfied. As a coach, you are never satisfied.”
He is disappointed that Jyothi’s record will not count because of wind. “I think she was very unfortunate,” he says. “Her performance energised Amlan. I told him that his task was cut out.”
The seasoned coach believes India has a lot of potential to be tapped. “I have always said India has good horizontal jumpers and hurdlers,” he says. “I have been very pleasantly surprised by the talent in this country. India is a sleeping giant.”