The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) made a rather surprising decision to cease hosting elite athlete national camps following the Paris Olympics 2024. Consequently, the window has been now made available for both public and private organizations to look after the elite players.
“We have decided to wind up national senior training camps after Paris (next year). We have communicated this to the Sports Ministry, which has appreciated our move,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said on the concluding day of the federation’s AGM.
“There are so many good facilities at SAI NCOES (National Centres of Excellence). Reliance, JSW, Tata and other private entities also have good facilities. They have made huge investments and appointed foreign coaches.”
In the aftermath of the AFI’s decision, elite athletes including M Sreeshankar, Avinash Sable, and Neeraj Chopra will no longer train under its supervision following Paris 2024. Athletes can now come under both public and private institutions. These states include Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, which have also hired foreign coaches. The AFI, on the other hand, will oversee the athletes through a staff of coaches.
“They can train athletes at their facilities. Not only the private entities, the Army Sports Institute, Railways, Air Force, Navy, ONGC, other public sector entities and even state governments can also train their athletes.”
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The AFI ran centralized national training camps for 130-150 elite athletes under the guidance of 50-60 support professionals. However, Neeraj Chopra mostly trains outside of India, whilst Sreeshankar is guided by his father, S Murali. Both Chopra and Sreeshankar are backed by the JSW group.
According to Sumariwalla, the plan is to decentralize the camps and disseminate them around the country so that athletes may practice closer to their homes. The AFI has yet to finalize the details of how the public and private sectors would collaborate to organize the training camps.
“We have 5-10 SAI centres but we can have 200 such centres. The athletes will have more access, they can stay at their homes and not at camps for training.”
One of the primary reasons for allowing both private and public organizations to enter the domain was to enhance the size of the athlete pool. The pool currently comprises only around between 100 and 150 people.
The federation’s decision to discontinue hosting national camps would result in less control over athlete drug testing. However, while conceding this, the AFI stated that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.
The federation will continue to host junior national training camps at the NCOES in partnership with AFI. The AFI also stated that it will continue to train the men’s, women’s, and mixed 4x400m relay teams. The AFI will also look after the athletes while they are on overseas exposure trips.