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Exposure is fine, but show us the results


The steering committee of the sports ministry, which clears the proposal of elite players to train abroad, needs to do a reality check. Even the Athletics Federation of India is at fault for proposing their names. It seems that little thought goes into clearing the proposals. A case in point is the nod to the four-member women's middle and long distance team for advanced training in Kenya and Europe. This came at a time when the runners were struggling to achieve basic fitness!


The quartet of Preeja Sreedharan, Kavita Raut, Sudha Singh and OP Jaisha could have improved their fitness and then focussed on polishing their skills.


If even halfway through the 10-month long programme, had someone kept track of the girls' performance, the taxpayers' money, more than R1.5crore, could have been saved.


The team was accompanied by Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach Jasvinder Singh Bhatia, and also had the backing of world-renowned distance expert Claudio Berardelli. Still, barring Sudha, the other runners failed to replicate their personal best. While Sudha just about managed to achieve a time of 9:47.70, against the Olympic 'B' qualification mark of 9:48, Preeja and Kavita struggled to come close to the Olympic 'B' qualification mark of 32:10, in 10,000m, in all the qualifying events they participated in.




What is intriguing is that the team management didn't disclose that Jaisha was carrying an injury. Instead of bringing her back, the ministry instructed SAI coach Renu Kohli to oversee her rehabilitation. This was at a time when athletes like 400m hurdler Joseph Abraham, who was on the verge of qualification, were denied funds to compete abroad.


Instead of proper planning, the ministry has pumped in money haphazardly. The funds have definitely added to the numbers gaining international exposure, but winning medals is a different matter altogether.


Way back in the 1990s, to break the monopoly of the East Africans in distance running, USA remodelled their long-distance programme. The results were outstanding.


Shalane Flanagan, who trailed the top names in 5,000m at the 2005 World Championships, went on to break the Ethiopians and Kenyans' stranglehold at the Beijing Games, by claiming bronze in 10,000m. Surely, she will be a name to watch out for during the London Olympics.


The rise of England's Mo Farah is another example of meticulous planning. A non-entity in 2008, he tasted phenomenal success in 2011, winning gold in 5,000m and silver in 10,000m at the World Championships in South Korea. Considering his recent performance, Farah is among the favourites in distance races.


On several occasions, sports minister Ajay Maken has spoken of making his officials accountable. It seems his words are yet to take effect.


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