The Rio Olympics 2016 have concluded and India put up one of its worst performances at the sporting spectacle which raises the question whether we have the infrastructure needed for athletes to reach their full potential. If it hadn’t been for the girls who managed to win medals or come close to it in Badminton, Wrestling and Gymnastics, India would have nothing to show of its outing this time around.
There have been some promising athletes who appeared at the scene but gradually faded into obscurity. One such star athlete is Tintu Luka from Kerala who the nation had a lot of hope from. She was promising, and under the guidance of former star athlete PT Usha, she was expected to reach new heights on the track. But what do you make of her performance at the latest Rio Olympics 2016? How do we assess in a realistic manner the real merit of the performance of a number of athletes that represent India?
This question seems to be uppermost in the minds of several sport lovers these days, especially after the uncle of Indian half-miler athlete Tintu Luka leveled some serious charges against her coach and famed athlete of yesteryears P T Usha. Tintu has been in Usha’s tutelage for more than a decade now.
What has been the erstwhile ‘Sprint queen’ of the 80s and early 90s doing to lift the morale and improve skills of the Indian athletes since she set up her school in Kerala’s Kozhikode district at the beginning of the millennium. Has the school, which is thriving on the liberal contributions of several philanthropists and corporate companies really producing the kind of athletes that India needs to have to be among medals at high level competitions. Does it even have the basic facilities needed though generous CSR funds’ being directed to this athletic school?
Tintu performance has not shown any significant improvement at least in the last 6-7 years. Officially, the 800-metre national record holder has so far in her career run the half mile under two minutes only once. She has repeatedly failed to crack the 120-second barrier most of the time after that race. Is this not enough to show that there is something seriously wrong in the training methods Tintu is seemingly receiving from her coach PT Usha.
Thanks to television coverage of her races, Indian sport fans have seen so many times how miserably Tintu has failed in her races at high level competitions, including the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. This leaves one to conclude that PT Usha’s protégé is well past her prime or seemingly suffers as a result of imbibing wrong athletic techniques. One has seen her repeating the same mistake of burning out early in the first lap and eventually losing out badly. This has prompted many sport buffs to believe that the continuance of a 27-year-old Tintu at her school is more than unavoidable for Usha as her exit would virtually signal an end to the training facility of Usha and also of course to the funding. Meaning, in the absence of any notable results, sponsors will simply move away from her school.
Already, the athlete has come under a cloud after the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) Government allotted her a prime piece of government land in Kozhikode a few months before it went out of power in May for no special achievements. Though the youth organisation of a Leftist party had initially staged some protests against the government’s largesse, for reasons better known to them, the forum too backed out after their initial enthusiasm.
The mainstream media in Kerala, especially the television channels, which do not spare a chance to deliberate on any issues under the Sun however chose to remain mute spectators to the shady deal. Imagine this gifting of the land took place to the Golden Girl of the 80s when the sole Olympic medallist from Kerala, Manuel Fredericks was running from pillar to post for a dwelling all these years.
Though the Kerala Sports Council (KSC) under its previous president and World Athletics medalist Anju Bobby George had recommended the 1972 Olympic medallist’s case to the government and got sanctioned Rs 2 million for the purpose, Fredericks dream for his own home has remained unfulfilled so far owing to some technical issues.
While coming back to Usha’s school, one is tempted to ask some questions which would be definitely not be music to the ears of the athlete. Does her school have a proper medical facility to take care of the growing requirements of her trainees. Is she ready for a full-fledged audit of all financial transactions of the school to prove its transparency?
Some overzealous Usha fans may still find fault with the uncle of Tintu for the allegations that he made against the school and its operator (s). However sports lovers across India, particularly Kerala, have enough reasons to feel that the deals of the coach are far from fair. So also are her coaching methods. It is crystal clear that Usha’s most notable ward Tintu is well past her prime and she should look elsewhere for a medal winner, if the coach is really serious in her intentions.
A large circle of sport buffs have no doubt that Usha was an outstanding athlete during her days, albeit for the Asian standards, but is simply an ordinary coach with no innovative thinking and training methods. Her coaching strategies, it seems, are useful, only for children below teenage and not beyond that levels. Those who believe in this school of thought have many reasons to feel so, as barring Tintu, the coach has not discovered an outstanding athlete in the last 15 years since the commencement of her school.
Just like Dronacharya O M Nambiar, who was always considered during his career as a trainer who solely focused on Usha, the Payyoli Express who gave India most number of medals at the Asian level meets is nowadays seen by most sport fans as a coach who has failed to produce a single notable athlete other than Tintu.