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Commonwealth Games 2022: Is the new-age Indian athlete asking for too much?

With Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain becoming the latest Indian athlete to make a demand for her personal coach at a multi-sporting event, we take a look at the recent occurrence of such events.

Commonwealth Games 2022: Is the new-age Indian athlete asking for too much?

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 26 July 2022 1:02 PM GMT

Much has been astir ever since Olympic bronze medallist boxer Lovlina Borgohain shared her distress about not having her long-time personal coach, Sandhya Gurung inside the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 village and helping in her training process, making her yet another Indian athlete in recent times to request for her personal coach at a multi-sporting event.

Of late, many a new-age Indian athlete has been placing such demands which often brings forward the question if this is indeed, too much of an ask, given the Chief National Coach is already accompanying the teams.

The Assamese boxer who shot to fame after putting on a phenomenal show at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 mentioned that she is being mentally harassed as her coach was not being allowed inside the Games village given that she did not have an official accreditation back then, which was tampering with Lovlina's focus right before the Games, where she is primed for a medal.

Speaking to The Bridge after Lovlina made her post, Sandhya mentioned, "Lovlina is getting a little impatient, naturally, since I'm also here in Birmingham but I'm not being able to meet her. She is being a little restless hence. But I believe some fix can be managed, the IOA is looking into the matter."

With Lovlina also saying that the absence of her coach at the World Boxing Championships factored in her poor show at the all-important world event, the matter quickly snowballed with athletes, coaches, and politicians alike rushing to weigh in on the matter and demand justice for Lovlina.

READ | The lion whisperer: How Sandhya Gurung shaped an Olympic medallist

"Lovlina Borgohain is an asset to our nation, she should be encouraged and supported in every way," Priyanka Gandhi, the Indian National Congress general secretary said in a tweet.

"I hope the government will look into her complaint and do everything possible to stop the harassment she is facing," Gandhi stated in the tweet, as Lovlina's post garnered instant attention with the Sports Ministry also persuading the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to intervene and facilitate the accreditation.

The BFI on Monday had issued a statement that as per rules only 33 percent (1/3rd) of the playing contingent is allowed as support staff. The Indian boxing contingent has 12 playing members (8 men and 4 women) and as per rules, the number of support staff will be four, which includes travelling coaches.

Causing quite the hullabaloo, Sandhya Gurung, a Dronacharya awardee coach, has now been included and provided with accreditation ultimately but the uproar caused already has brought a reminder to the immediate past where athletes have placed such demands for personal coaches at multi-sporting events, of late.

Personal coaches for athletes at multi-sports events: Yay or Nay?

Manika Batra at the Tokyo Olympics (Source: Getty)

Just a year ago, Manika Batra expressed her dissatisfaction with not having her personal coach, Sanmay Paranjape by the courtside during her high-octane matches at the Tokyo Olympics. The then-Chief National Coach Soumyadeep Roy was the only one allowed but Manika Batra wasn't willing to take advice from him, resulting in a major controversy with the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) issuing a show-cause notice against the star paddler.

Days after the Tokyo Olympics, it was discovered that Soumyadeep Roy had asked Manika to throw away her match against Sutirtha Mukherjee at the Olympic qualifiers in Doha in March 2021 and the matter was dragged to court with the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) banning Soumyadeep after finding him guilty of match-fixing, making the matter take an ugly turn.

Amit Panghal (Source: Getty)

On the other hand, former World No. 1 boxer Amit Panghal was also devoid of his childhood coach Anil Dhankar at the Tokyo Olympics. The Boxing Federation had agreed to send Dhankar to the training camp in Assisi, Italy while stressing that he will not be travelling to Tokyo.

Unfortunately, Dhankar's name was not on the list made by BFI for the Tokyo contingent and Amit Panghal desired his coach to be included at the last moment as well but according to the rules, you cannot add to the names but may reduce.

At the Olympics, Panghal, who was expected to surely medal, suffered a shocking 1-4 loss to Rio Games silver medallist Yuberjen Martinez in the pre-quarterfinals of the men's flyweight (52kg) category.

It remains an open debate if this trend of athletes demanding for their personal coaches is justified or simply another flare-up that seems to come with being an elite athlete in India.

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