Suresh Babu to begin a new innings

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Suresh Babu.
Suresh Babu.

A. Vinod

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Olympian Suresh Babu is all set to start a new innings after seeking voluntary retirement from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the organisation with which he has been involved for the past 25 years.

The 1978 Asian Games gold medal winner in long jump is to demit office as athletics coach of SAI on September 1. Simultaneously, he has also decided to put in his papers as Chief National senior coach in athletics.

Talking to The Hindu here on Sunday, Suresh Babu cited personal reasons for seeking VRS from SAI and in deciding to quit as the Chief National Coach. “I have been away from my family for far too long and I think it is high time I settled down in life.” Officially, he would have been in service till 2013.

Asked about his future plans, Suresh Babu, who first represented India at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the age of 19, said that he had a few immediate commitments including the offer to be the chef-de-mission of the Kerala contingent to the National Games in Jharkhand. “Since it has been officially announced that these Games will be held from November 21 to December 5 in Jharkhand, I will be busy with the preparation of the Kerala team almost straightaway. And then, as Kerala will be hosting the next edition of the Games in May 2010, I will also working with the National Games Secretariat for its smooth conduct besides overseeing the preparation of the State contingent.”

Further, he has also been sounded to take over as the head of the technical wing of the Kerala State Sports Council.

Suresh Babu who had been the Chief National Coach earlier in 1989 (for more than a year) was later appointed as CNC for juniors in 2004 before being promoted as CNC for seniors in October last year. Once his commitments with the National Games are over, the former champion athlete who inspired a lot of youngsters to take up athletics in the 1970s and 1980s, has also plans to return to coaching.

“As Chief National Coach through the last six years, I have been unable to coach athletes individually, being tied up with a lot of organisational responsibility. But now, I would like to coach a few jumpers, working closely with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) or the KSSC. However, these jumpers would have to work with me at the location where I am placed as I would not like to travel to the National-level training centres at regular intervals any longer. No, I don’t have any plans to start an academy.”

Suresh Babu was candid as he admitted that there was little chance of India winning a gold medal in athletics at the next year’s Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. “As it is, we simply don’t have anyone who is capable to winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. At the most, what we can realistically expect is a minor medal or two in six events – men’s discus throw, shot put and 20km walk and women’s discus throw and the 1600m relay”.

A known campaigner against doping all through his career, Suresh Babu said the menace could be overcome only if individual athletes themselves took a stand on the issue. “All that the Government and the National federations can do is to come up with strictures. And this is being done in our country regularly. As far as Indian athletics is concerned, I am sure that most of our athletes doing middle and long distances are clean, but I would say there a few who can be categorised as extremely doubtful in all other events.”

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