By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) The pole vault setup at the showpiece Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is in a shambles. A mat borrowed from high jump currently makes up for a proper landing pit. The poor condition of the infrastructure could cause serious injuries to athletes, but no one seems to have noticed the shortcoming.
The National Centre of Excellence (NOCE) for pole vault was setup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in November 2018 with an aim to groom youngsters in the age group of 15 to 18 years for the 2024 and the 2028 Olympics.
The five athletes of the NCOE are using 12-year-old, worn-out landing pit and don’t even have good poles for training. Despite the fact that the NCOE is situated right next to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) headquarters, where its director general Sandip Pradhan also sits, the pole vault facility seems to have caught nobody’s eye.
SAI Director General wasn’t available for a comment.
“The life span of the pole vault mat is usually three to four years. Since there is no good equipment for young athletes we haven’t made good progress in this discipline,” said a national level coach.
According to former national champion Geesh Kumar of Kerala, the landing pit is the most important aspect of pole vault training. “If the mat is in a bad shape it will hurt the back and shoulders of athletes as they land on the mat from a height of four metres or above,” Kumar told IANS.
Kumar, who had set a national record of 5.05 metres in 2005, is surprised that stadium is frequently visited by several top officials of the sports ministry and SAI. But instead of making good progress the NCOE is being overlooked. “It was a good step to nurture talent for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. But we should have a good system at the grassroots level,” said Kumar.
In January 2020, the pole vault academy came under the NCOE’s wings. The SAI is improving facilities of all the NCOEs across the country, but pole vault discipline seems to have hardly received the fillip it requires.
To add to its woes, the NCOE is functioning without a coach. Railways Devender Kumar, who was on deputation as an assistant coach, was sacked last year on disciplinary grounds, for allegedly thrashing a trainee of the academy. Since then the SAI has banned his entry inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Head coach PC Tyagi’s contract too hasn’t been extended by SAI since August 2020. He was on deputation from the Central Industrial Security Force. Tyagi too didn’t respond to calls or text messages.
Since there are not good facilities, the five athletes under the project can’t do hard training. “We are just doing normal drills,” said one of the trainees on condition of anonymity.