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Tokyo 2020

How foreign coaches became a success mantra for Indian athletes at Tokyo Olympics

Six of the seven Indian medal-winning individuals or team at the Tokyo Olympics had foreign coaches.

How foreign coaches became a success mantra for Indian athletes at Tokyo Olympics

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 10 Aug 2021 7:24 AM GMT

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was India's most successful campaign in its Olympic history. The country returned with a total of 7 medals, including an individual gold medal via Neeraj Chopra in javelin throw.

While all of these seven medals came in different sports, there is a very distinct feature that links all except one of them together.

Wondering what is something which connects the six of them together? The coaches.

No, not all of them trained under one coach. But six of the seven Indian medal-winning individuals or teams had foreign coaches, with the only exception being the weightlifter Mirabai Chanu.

While the country's only second individual Olympic gold medallist, Neeraj Chopra, trained under the German Klaus Bartonietz, the men's hockey team was coached by the Australian, Graham Reid.

Moreover, boxer Lovlina Borgohain was under the aegis of Italian Raffaele Bergamasco and wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya blossomed with the Russian Kamal Malikov by his side.

Lovlina Borgohain with her coach Raffaele Bergamasco (The Indian Express)

On the other hand, badminton star PV Sindhu worked with Park Tae-Sang of South Korea, Bajrang Punia clinched the bronze under the guidance of Georgia's Shako Bentinidis.

While Mirabai Chanu mainly worked under the eyes of her longtime coach Vijay Sharma, she too had worked Dr Aaron Horschig – a USA based strength and conditioning trainer.

Besides two others – the Indian women's hockey team and wrestler Deepak Punia, who came close to a medal, also had foreign coaches in the form of Sjoerd Marijne and Murad Giadarov, respectively.

Sjoerd Marijne with the Indian women's hockey team

On contrary, the Indian shooting contingent, which failed to impress in Tokyo, too worked with foreign coaches Pavel Smirnov (pistol) and Oleg Mikhailov (rifle) in lead up to the Games.

While the pistol contingent's below-par performance could be attributed to Pavel's unavailability in Tokyo for the Olympics, Mikhailov was present with the rifle shooting contingent during the Games.

With the impact of foreign coaches on Indian athletes being so evidently visible, is it not time that we take a cue from them and train the Indian coaches on how to bring out the best from their wards under high-pressure situations?

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