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The mystery over the missing personalised energy drinks for marathoner O.P. Jaisha at the Rio Olympics continued for the second successive day.
Did the seasoned runner, the women’s National record holder, tell the Athletics Federation of India that she did not need the personalised drinks which the athlete’s support team is allowed to set up on the marathon route?
“I had collected eight bottles from the organisers and asked Jaisha’s coach Nikolai Snesarev whether they wanted it on the course. They said they did not need them,” AFI secretary C.K. Valson told The Hindu on Tuesday.
“Because, they are not in the practice of using this water. So, how can we enter the competition area? First of all, how will they allow us inside?”
Valson also said Deputy National coach Radhakrishnan Nair asked Jaisha whether she needed the personalised drinks and energy stuff.
“She told Radhakrishnan that Nikolai never allowed personalised water,” explained Valson. The AFI secretary also said Kavita Raut, who also ran the women’s marathon in Rio, did not have any problems.
However, Jaisha made it clear that she had not been asked about it and if her coach’s opinion had been sought, she said it was the athlete who was running the 42-km event and not the coach.
Valson revealed that the Sports Ministry had asked for details and he had sent the rules regarding the marathon.
“We have explained what the rules and regulations are, whether we are allowed inside. None of the AFI officials are allowed inside the marathon area,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Asian champion Sunita Godara, a veteran of 76 marathons, said it was the duty of the coach and the support team to ensure that the athlete was taken care of during the gruelling race.
“No matter what the athlete says, it is the duty of the coach and the support team to ensure that they keep something,” Sunita, who once came 10th in the Paris marathon, told The Hindu.
“In such situations, and especially in heavy heat, even death can occur. Anything can happen, it’s very dangerous. It is a criminal offence keeping these tables empty, without water or energy drinks, and only depending on the stuff provided by the organisers.
“It happened to me twice in the National championships years ago and I suffered a blackout and even lost my memory for about half an hour. Not keeping anything is literally not taking care of the athlete.”
But she felt that coach Nikolai might have put his foot down and refused the personalised tables where a country could keep drinks and energy items for its athletes during the marathon.
‘An adamant man’
“Nikolai is such a dictator, he’s such an adamant man, it’s only because of him that this situation has arisen,” said Sunita, who said she has run nearly 50 international marathons.
“You never know, this coach would even say that because of these drinks, they could not perform. So, the blame has to go to the coach first, these are hazards of the marathon which the coach has to anticipate.”
However, Sunita said that even if the coach and athlete refuse the personalised drinks, the support team should insist on providing them.
“The federation officials claim that in the World championships too, they had refused the offer of personalised drinks. But it is the duty of the federation officials to make it clear to the coach that it is a mistake. If the athlete is ignorant, the federation should take care, it’s a team effort.