Long jumper Sreeshankar Murali, 19, is another promising athlete who will be missing the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha to be held from April 21 to 24. The national record holder has pulled out of the Federation Cup because he aggravated a left-heel injury, which first surfaced in February.
Sreeshankar had participated in the 3rd leg of the Indian Grand Prix in Sangrur where he won the gold with 7.74 metres. The youngster had jumped with mild discomfort but the pain got worse and he had to skip the Federation Cup, the selection trials for the Asian Athletics Championships. The qualifying standard was 7.90m.
The Athletics Federation of India, however, is not pleased with the long jumper training at the Medical College Ground in Palakkad, Kerala, which has a synthetic runway but is bare-boned otherwise. His father-cum-coach Murali, a former triple-jumper also came in for criticism.
Deputy chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair believes that training in Palakkad is doing the young jumper no good. "There is just a synthetic track which was laid because of some political pressure. Palakkad is not a place for such a youngster to train. I don't think his father has the competency to coach an athlete like him," Nair said on Tuesday.
The AFI had held a meeting with Sreeshankar and his parents to convince him to train with a foreign coach and shift base aboard. The federation was also ready to designate Murali as an assistant coach. "AFI has given him all facilities including to train there in his hometown with a foreign coach but he is not ready to go abroad for training. We called his parents and discussed for four hours but they were not convinced," Nair added. The heel injury has become a cause of concern for the federation. On Tuesday morning, Sreeshankar informed the federation that he was going to start training again after a break.
"The heel injury for a long jumper, especially at take-off is a very serious and it will prolong if he does not taking proper treatment and rehabilitation. He and his coach are very enthusiastic to get performance very fast without proper recovery. He just started training and is not fully cured. Can we expect that he can jump over 8 metres? And the place where he is training there is no recovery measures like physiotherapy or cold bath or hot bath. There is nothing, it is a village. There is a 11kv line (electricity) going over that track. He is a world class jumper but Palakkad is not a place to train," Nair said.
In November, the AFI had decided to put Romanian coach Bedros Bedrosian in charge of Sreeshankar but appalled by the lack of facilities - there is no gymnasium at the stadium - he not only decided not to train Sreeshankar but has also put in his papers.
AFI president Adille Sumariwala said that it was baffling that while the federation was trying to give the best facilities in the world, including a training stint abroad, the athlete was not willing to move out of Palakkad.
"If you don't take it and you think you can still do it then good luck. Hope he does it. Sometimes it is all about money. Because if you win a medal you get money. That is the biggest problem. Also because the coaches get money. So I want to hold on to my father. It does not work like this."
Chopra in the squad
PTI adds: Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was on Wednesday named to lead a 40-member Indian athletics team for next month's Asian Championships in Doha. National record holders, Mohd. Anas (400m), Jinson Johnson (800m and 1500m), Dharun Ayyasamy (400m hurdles), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put) and Annu Rani (javelin throw) as well as Dutte Chand (200m) were also among those named in the team.