Why not follow 'Chopra model' to send athletes abroad?

Uwe Hohn, the national javelin throw coach, says it is difficult for athletes to stay motivated without competitions.

Uwe Hohn, the national javelin throw coach, with Neeraj Chopra.   -  FILE PHOTO/BISWARANJAN ROUT

As javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra gets ready for his next event, Sweden's Karlstad GP, back home Shivpal Singh must be really desperate for meets.

Shivpal, like Chopra, has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics but the Athletics Federation of India's plans to send him and others to Turkey and more recently to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for training and competitions have all failed.

The visa restrictions and 14-day quarantine have often been given out as hurdles for athletes' travel abroad.

That brings us to the big question: Why didn't the AFI try the Chopra model to send Shivpal and others abroad at this crucial stage with the Olympics just 40 days away? Chopra, the country's brightest hope for a medal in athletics in Tokyo, flew to Portugal via France on June 6 and won a meet in Lisbon four days later.

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“We tried since ages to get a camp or get to Europe for competitions for our top throwers but it’s very difficult because of strict restrictions of other countries. But there is also no support from AFI or SAI. And the fact that Neeraj was able to leave is based on contacts of JSW (which is supporting him),” said German Uwe Hohn, the national javelin throw coach, in a chat with Sportstar from Patiala on Monday evening.

Bhubaneswar better than Patiala

“Few athletes had one competition in 2020, for others last competition was in 2019 so they need to catch some competition. It's part of training and eight to 10 competitions should be okay.

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“The planned preparation camps (abroad) are very important because the training conditions here in India are of a very low level, especially at Patiala. Training conditions in Bhubaneswar were even much better than at the national camp.”

Despite the many restrictions, swimmers, boxers, wrestlers and shooters have found ways to compete abroad in the last few weeks.

Danger zone

So one can imagine the frustration of athletes like Shivpal, Annu Rani (19 and well placed on the Road to Tokyo women's javelin rankings), long jumper M. Sreeshankar (qualified), shotputter Tajinderpal Singh Toor and the 4x400m men's and women's relay runners who are in the danger zone in the rankings. They are all desperate for competitions.

The last-minute cancellation of trips have also hurt athletes badly.

“Athletes realise that there’s no support from anyone... so it’s also very difficult to stay motivated,” said Hohn a former world record holder.

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“Probably only Neeraj will have the advantage of international competitions (before Tokyo).”

The AFI president Adille Sumariwalla and the SAI Director General Sandip Pradhan did not respond to calls and messages sent for their version.

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