There may be a slowdown of sorts at the senior level but if Rajinder Singh Saini is to be believed, there is a bright bunch of juniors ready to step in.
“Our juniors are highly motivated and ready to take over from the seniors,” said Saini, the chief junior national coach.
“We have Prem Kumar, the Tamil Nadu long jumper who is training in the U.S., who has come up with some big jumps and Ankit Sharma, just coming into the senior level, who is as good as Prem”, he said. “Triple jumper Arpinder Singh, who is also just out of the junior ranks, will take over from Renjith Maheswary and Durgesh Kumar who won the 400 m hurdles silver medalist at the Youth Olympics (in Singapore, 2010) are some of the others who will be taking over from the seniors in three or four years.”
He reeled out a few more names like the young race walker Kushbir Kaur, who has qualified for this month’s World Championship in Moscow, and said that there were some very promising athletes like walker K.T. Neena, middle-distance runner Mohammed Afsal, discus thrower Praveen Kumar and shot putter Meghana Devang in the much younger youth group.
“We need to only follow them for longer durations”, said the coach. Unfortunately, organising coaching camps seems to be a problem.
“There were no camps for juniors for the last two years and we managed this one (the current camp in Thiruvananthapuram) by reducing the number of senior campers”, said Saini. “Earlier, we used to have more than Rs. 20 crore but now it is Rs. 11 crore for all athletes, seniors and juniors. We cannot do anything with that.
“It will be good if we could have some 400 juniors at the national camps and then we could weed out athletes after a few competitions but now we have just about 30.”