Sreeshankar’s coach Murali left out of trip to Almaty

Another jumps coach Bibu Mathew figures in the team which has around 20 athletes.

M. Sreeshankar trains with his Father-cum-coach S. Murali.   -  Shaji Mullookkaran

He is young and one of the country’s top three athletes, with potential to do very well in the Olympics. Clearly, M. Sreeshankar deserves the best of support especially since the World championships in Doha are less than three months away and since the qualification gates for next year’s Tokyo Olympics are now open.

But while the Athletics Federation of India has sent national record holder Sreeshankar to Almaty without his dad-cum-coach S. Murali for the two international meets in Almaty (Kazakhstan, July 6-7) and Bishkek (Krygyzstan, July 13-14), another jumps coach Bibu Mathew figures in the team which has around 20 athletes.

Incidentally, Bibu is the jumps coach in the National camp at the SAI-LNCPE centre in Thiruvananthapuram where three triple jumpers were missing when the NADA dope control officers came to test athletes recently.

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A top AFI official explained that two triple jumpers, Mohammed Salahuddin and Mohammed Zuber, had sought prior permission to leave the centre but the other athlete, Anusha Poojary, was asked to leave the camp as she had not done so.

The AFI has repeatedly said that it would be tough on athletes who evade testers and that even their coaches could be in trouble but in this case, it appears a bit strange that the coach has been sent on a tour without a proper investigation being completed in the matter.

“The thing is, we cleared the athletes for the Kazakhstan trip much before all these things happened. That is the only reason why Bibu has gone there,” said the AFI official, who requested anonymity, on Thursday evening.

“We fully agree that Sreeshankar is one of our best athletes and he has been producing results too, it is our responsibility to back him.

“But the quota is there, every time you cannot keep sending everybody. For the last set of competitions (in June), the Sports Authority of India had initially refused to clear Murali but we wrote that the boy is young and needs some support. And ultimately, SAI agreed.”

Murali has moulded his son into the country’s best-ever long jumper and it was a bit surprising when the official said that the federation probably did not send his name for Government clearance for the trip this time.

“May be, we did not send Murali’s name for sanction this time from our side because we have our own limitations on taking more coaches,” he said.