Tokyo Olympics 2020: In a first, AFI appoints Romanian coach for Kerala athlete Sreeshankar Murali, who can’t miss college to train

By: | Updated: October 10, 2018 12:14 PM

In a first, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is all set to relocate a national-level camp coach, Bedros Bedrosian, to athlete Sreeshankar Murali's hometown in Kerala so as to facilitate his training and calm down his concern about "college attendance".

“We see a potential medal winner in him at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and decided to assign coach Bedrosian to him,” says AFI president Adille Sumariwalla. (IE)

In a first, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is all set to relocate a national-level camp coach to an athlete’s hometown in Palakkad in Kerala so as to facilitate his training and calm down his concern about “college attendance”. The AFI decided that national jump coach Bedros Bedrosian, a former male triple jumper from Romania, will move to teenage long-jump Sreeshankar Murali’s hometown in Palakkad to focus on him along with another long jumper Neena Varakil. The AFI is also discussing measures to ensure sufficient infrastructure and training facility to the young athletes.

Speaking to The Indian Express, AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said, “We decided in a committee meeting that Sreeshankar’s studies should not be affected due to training. We see a potential medal winner in him at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and decided to assign Bedrosian to him. He will travel to Sreeshankar’s hometown. We are also in talks for setting up facilities for them to train to ensure his studies don’t get affected and they conduct training sessions regularly. We have done well at the Asian level but that’s not enough, we need to compete at the world level.”

The AFI has also decided to rope in more coaches, including Bedros’s replacement, for the various national camps. Sumariwalla said that AFI is in the process of signing up coaches from Cuba and New Zealand to enable Indian athletes to continue their evolution as top-class competitors. He added that these coaches will be appointed before the end of the first camp after the Asian Games.

The AFI is also committed to getting in more coaches, including Bedros’s replacement, for the various national camps. “To enable our athletes to continue their training and their evolution as top-class competitors, we are in the process of signing up coaches from Cuba and New Zealand. We are confident we will have them in place before the end of the first camp after the Asian Games,” Sumariwalla told IE.

The 19-year-old Sreeshankar gave up an engineering course and opted for a B.Sc in Mathematics at Victoria College in his hometown Palakkad to focus on his training. Sreeshankar told IE that he is very happy that the federation is willing to set up a facility in Palakkad for the athletes. However, he added that he will continue to train directly under his father.

Sreeshankar’s father, Murali, was an international triple jumper while his mother K S Bijimol is an 800m Asian junior medallist. For Murali, the AFI’s decision has come as a relief for his son as he will not have to worry about the college attendance.

“Education is very important. The federation’s move will ease his concern because they are very particular about attendance here. They may stop you from appearing in examinations if your attendance falls short of a certain percentage. He can now focus on training without the need to worry about college,” IE reports, quoting Murali as saying.

As a professional athlete, Sreeshankar has seen many highs and lows this year. Sreeshankar missed the Commonwealth Games due to an appendix surgery after his organ raptured and he was hospitalised. “I felt my whole energy was sapped. I could not even complete warm-up rounds, let alone jumping. But I had my father pushing and supporting all along,” he recalls.

But, Sreeshankar was resilient and he made a come back to the circuit with a bronze medal in Asian Juniors Athletics Championship in June. He shattered the men’s long jump national record with a leap of 8.20m on way to winning the gold medal at the National Open Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held between July 24 and August 9, 2020. A recent report released by the national government’s Board of Audit shows Japan is likely to spend $25 billion to prepare the Games, and the final number could go even higher. This amount is nearly four times to Tokyo’s winning bid in 2013.

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