Mariyappan coach issue resurfaces

G.K. Mohan, a high-jump coach with the Indian Air Force, has alleged that Mariyappan's coach Satyanarayana is “undermining the work of others” by taking credit for mentoring Thangavelu.

The controversy around the identity of paralympic gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu's coach refuses to go away.   -  R.V. Moorthy

The controversy around the identity of paralympic gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu's coach refuses to go away. G.K. Mohan, a high-jump coach with the Indian Air Force here, has written to the Union sports ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) claiming that he ought to be recognized for his efforts in training the athlete.

The 31-year-old has also alleged that Satyanarayana is “undermining the work of others” by taking credit for coaching Thangavelu. It must be noted, however, that this is not the first such claim. Thangavelu has previously declared that his coach is Satyanarayana and reiterated that on Monday.

“When Mariyappan came to train under me, he was only able to jump to a height of 175-178 cm. I helped him improve and his gold-medal winning jump was 189 cm,” said Mohan, adding that he worked with Thangavelu both at the SAI and the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. “But now I feel they used me. I'm not expecting any monetary benefit as the Air Force is paying for my work but I want to get recognition and dignity.”

Mohan stated that he had chosen to speak out more than a year after the Rio Paralympics because Satyanarayana had originally been recommended for the Dronacharya award (before being struck off the list).  “I don’t have the contacts or the resources to take Mariyappan to different tournaments around the world. There’s no denying that Satya has helped Mariyappan, who comes from a humble family. He has supported the athlete, but he’s undermining the work of others by claiming to be the coach. When his name was taken off the list of Dronacharya awardees, I was extremely satisfied,” he said.

Responding to the allegations, Satyanarayana said: “Anyone can claim anything. Check the records with the SAI, the PCI or the IPC; nowhere is he (Mohan) mentioned as the coach. Mariyappan has always insisted that I am his coach. I cannot understand why this issue is coming up now.”

Satyanarayana admitted, though, that he and Thangavelu had interacted with Mohan on a couple of occasions at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. “He (Mohan) was coaching a few athletes and they used to train at the stadium. I would be training Mariyappan there at the same time. So we have discussed things related to high jump with him a couple of times. But nothing more. Just because someone trains next to us, he does not become the coach,” he said.

Mohan's appeal also contains pictures taken by him in Thangavelu's company as evidence but Satyanarayana dismissed these. “I can take a picture standing next to Amitabh Bachhan,” he said. “That does not make me his friend.”

Meanwhile, Mariyappan said: "It is Satyanarayana who has been training me for the last three years. He is my only coach. I merely spoke to him (Mohan) a couple of times at the stadium after he introduced himself to me as a high-jumper. I don't know what is happening. People keep emerging out of the blue and claim that they are my coaches."