Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (5, 110 hurdles at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics)
Our performance has gone down compared to 2010. The Asian athletics championship was a reflection of our standard. We won only two gold medals. A country like China does not send its full team for the Asian championship. We field our best team yet achieve this kind of result.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) should be strict towards those athletes who are not participating in the coaching camps. All athletes should attend the camps as collective training enhances fighting and competitive spirit. For example, if Tintu Luka, who is doing individual training, gets into group training then her performance will definitely improve in three months.
Those who are not participating in the coaching camp in Patiala should not be sent to the World championship (in Moscow). If all members of the relay team do not train together then they cannot form a team.
We need more expert coaches. We do not have the support of scientific training. Even today, coaches are judging the athletes with naked eye and not with the help of any device. This way it is going to be very difficult in future. Our coaches only do a course at NIS (National Institute of Sports) Patiala and do not have any knowledge about rehab, recovery and diet. I do not think an NIS course is important. Some coaches, who have interest in coaching, are doing a good job without doing a course. Our coaches need to brush up their knowledge.
Athletes need to participate in maximum international events. Our athletes are shy of participating in international events as they just aim to qualify for the Asian Games, Olympics or World championships.
People like me, Milkha Singh, Sriram Singh, P.T. Usha or Anju Bobby George have given their best in the Olympics. Now, our athletes give a better performance in the selection trials because their priority is to only get selected for big events.
Competitions are organized at the grassroots level but there are no facilities. Except for one or two no state provides proper coaching, training, kit etc. We only want to run paper horses. We do not have playfields. Our grassroots realities are so different. Sports Authority of India is making some efforts. I hope it produces results.
Sriram Singh (7, 800 m at the 1976 Montreal Olympics)
In our times, we used to work hard as it is the key to success. It seems today’s generation is reluctant to work hard. Once upon a time there were several big names in long and middle distance running and steeplechase. We used to win medals consistently. We should focus on these competitions because we have a better chance of winning medals.
Nowadays we have many more coaches. But the results cannot come as long as the athlete does not show interest. A coach can only help you improve.
A coach, a dietician and a psychologist have to work together to help an athlete, who needs proper guidance as far as training, diet and motivation are concerned. Sports medicine should be developed and the National team should be monitored (to avoid dope menace). We have to accept that knowledge of sports medicine is very crucial in modern athletics.
Good coaches should be deployed for junior athletes as well. The juniors should be provided with good facilities. If the grooming process is faulty we will end up with athletes who will perform below their potential.
Since we do not have a good feeder line, we do not have many star athletes today. Earlier, Services and Police used to prepare their own athletes. An athlete, working with the Army or Police, used to train in a disciplined environment and excel. Sadly, this is one of the major reasons for India not pushing ahead in international athletics.