Shooters, coaches, NRAI: Bindra panel spares none for RIO debacle

PTI8_6_2016_000235a [File] Jitu Rai performs at Rio Olympics | PTI

London Olympics Bronze medalist Gagan Narang hid his heel injury. Rifle shooter Ayonika Paul had two personal  coaches- one in real (former Olympic record holder Suma Shirur) and one on paper (Thomas Farniik) for financial gains. Pistol ace Jitu Rai admitted to a lack of working relationship with pistol coach Smirnov Pavel. Trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu refused to change his approach, and despite going to Italy, spent few hours training with coach Marcello Dradi. Rifle shooter Sanjeev Rajput whose quota was swapped for a second quota in double trap should have been sent in place of a physically unwell Chain Singh. 

The Abhinav Bindra-led review committee, in a brutally honest yet clinical assessment, exposed individual and systemic failures while reviewing the reasons for Indian shooting team’s  dismal  performance at Rio Olympics. The panel has spared none in its review—holding athletes, coaches, NRAI and even SAI responsible, while suggesting a roadmap towards more professional and accountable approach for future competitions. 

NRAI president Raninder Singh accepted the report in toto barring one recommendation related to not staging international competitions at home. He said, “this report is not for a blame game. It is not an outside committee foisted on us, its an internal report.”

Former Olympic and World Champion Abhinav Bindra, who led the committee, said, “ this is not a witch-hunt. Rio is over. Focus is on the future.” 

The 36-page report discourages direct funding to athletes by Sports Authority of India under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and feels that Indian athletes, especially young ones, are “not equipped to charter their own course.” The report says that the less experienced Indian athletes should not be allowed to make  decisions themselves on their training schedules and courses. It also brought out the long burning issue of lack of coordination and understanding between NRAI and Services officials which hurt the preparations of  Services shooters like Gurpreet Singh, Jitu Rai and Chain Singh immensely. 

It criticised the manner in which the TOPS and the SAI dispersed money directly to athletes based on their proposals with no qualified personnel there to either vet the proposal or review the athletes’ performance from time to time. It urges athletes to be honest. 

The committee has recommended appointment of a High Performance Manager—a qualified person who has ability to analyse and review progress of all shooters' training away from home. The committee dealt extensively with issue of coaches and said the NRAI should start training former shooters as coaches and have a proper coaches development plan. The NRAI should ensure that only qualified coaches or former shooters are attached to camps and athletes. 

The federation has been asked to get rid of its hands-off and non-involved approach vis a vis training of shooters. It should stop being a mere post office and has to become more professional and accountable. The sanctity of national camp must be restored as per the review report. Camps should focus on skill development and not be a pre-departure camp where no value can be added to the training. 

The Indian team had only one camp before Rio in 2015 with most elite athletes staying away. Kith and Kin of athletes will have to be strictly kept away from competitions and competition area. Giving example of Hockey India, the committee urged NRAI to organise its own national camps and arrange logistics rather than depending on SAI and funds. 

The federation is set to advertise for a High Performance Manager in next few days. 

The NRAI has been advised to have a better working relationship with Services to avoid confusing the shooter. The NRAI has agreed to separating administrative and technical work within the federation. It has been told to ensure that the shooters or their family shouldn’t be running for logistical support. A nodal officer should be there to take care of these activities. 

Foreign coaches Smirnov Pavel and Stanislav Lapidus were found guilty of either not submitting training schedules of shooter Prakash N. on time or misleading the committee by saying funds for Apurvi Chandela were not released on time. Chandela was one of the first shooters whose proposal was cleared under TOPS scheme. Raninder Singh, however, said that future of Pavel, Falco and Dradi are safe.

The National Rifle Association of India had appointed a four member committee which included Bindra, Sports administrator Manisha Malhotra and senior sports journalists Kamesh Srinivasan and Digvijay Singh Deo to look into macro and micro details of where things went wrong and recommend solutions. The committee, set up on August 25, 2016, was given four weeks time to submit its report. The committee spoke to all Rio shooters, Indian and foreign coaches, individual coaches, former shooters and other stakeholders during the exhaustive review.

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