Ever since Neeraj Chopra won the first Gold medal in a track and field event for India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, the liberals around the country have been trying to play down his achievement and find ways to slate the government. While for some Chopra became a Sanghi for his nationalist credentials, others have picked up the interview of former Javelin Coach Uwe Hohn and tried to establish that Neeraj received no help from the Modi government.
Indian Express ran a story in June earlier this year where Hohn took potshots at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and presented a dystopian picture of the sporting scene in India.
Hohn said, “When I came here, I thought I could change something but it’s probably too difficult with these people at SAI or AFI. I don’t know if it’s lack of knowledge or ignorance. Beside camps or competitions, even when we ask via our nutritionist for supplements for our athletes, we don’t get the right stuff. Not even for TOPS athletes. If we get something, we are very happy!”
However, Indian Express, infamous for running the coup story, conveniently hid the fact that Neeraj had left Hohn and decided to train with Dr Klaus Bartonietz, in 2018, three years ago. Nowhere in the article, the publication tried to clear the ambiguity and presented it as if Hohn was the coach of Neeraj.
I want to work with Klaus – Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra, whilst being felicitated by AFI on Tuesday (August 10) remarked, “I respect Hohn sir, I won gold in 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games under him. But his technical approach and style of training was different. I told him that I want to work with Klaus sir,”
Besides, the same day the interview was published, Neeraj, training abroad must have read the lies spread by Hohn and thus took to Twitter to clear the air.
Neeraj tweeted, “As far as preparations for @Tokyo2020 are concerned, all my requirements have been taken care of in the best possible way. I’m training in Europe currently and am thankful for the efforts made by the government and the Indian embassy, despite the tough visa rules.”
As far as preparations for @Tokyo2020 are concerned, all my requirements have been taken care of in the best possible way. I'm training in Europe currently and am thankful for the efforts made by the government and the Indian embassy, despite the tough visa rules.
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) June 16, 2021
Outrageous salary hike
Moreover, after liberals created clamour over Hohn’s interview, the skeletons in the closet started coming out as it was revealed that Hohn was the nerve centre of the controversy.
According to a TOI report, it’s been alleged that Hohn’s original contract was worth Rs 1.09 crore a year, plus boarding & lodging, medical facilities and leave travel. However, he wanted a 50 per cent hike and to be paid Rs 1.64 crore a year, tax-free, and first-class air tickets during renewal.
One of the sources told the publication, “SAI, in 2020, had informed him that his demands were unreasonable and unacceptable since the result of the throwers he was training did not warrant an increase of Rs 55 lakh. SAI also pointed out that it had appointed another foreign javelin throw coach, Dr. Klaus Bartonietz, at considerable expense on the recommendation of the AFI and that he is training Neeraj Chopra for nearly a year and a half. Mr Hohn decided to renew the contract at the existing term and was training Shivpal Yadav. Another javelin thrower, Annu Rani, also refused to train with him.”
Neeraj Chopra's coach is Klaus Bartonietz. Chopra stopped training from Uwe Hohn 2yrs back.
In fact, Shivpal Singh and Annu Rani had complained that Uwe Hown takes players to foreign country to train other athletes.
— Ankur (@iAnkurSingh) August 8, 2021
The SAI sources claimed that a total of Rs 7 crore was spent on Neeraj’s training during the four-year Olympic cycle. It included “foreign training for 450 days at a cost of Rs 4.58 crores. National coaching camp for 1167 days in the NSNIS Patiala and a total of 177 numbers of javelins including one javelin throw machine procured for Rs 74.28 lakhs”.
It’s not only Neeraj and the work done for him by the government that has been undermined by the lobby — the same was the case with the first medallist of the Tokyo Olympics Mirabai Chanu. The suspected few claimed that Chanu was not supported by the government. However, the truth couldn’t be far from it.
Reported extensively by TFI, before the Olympics began, Mirabai had received funding of Rs 51.51 lakhs towards out-of-pocket allowance, equipment and training support, participation in international competitions and sports science assistance.
Moreover, as stated by Birendra Prasad — President of the Indian Weightlifting Federation, TOPS funded the recovery and rehabilitation program of Mirabai twice to be carried out in the United States of America, costing more than Rs. 1.3 crore.
When the coronavirus pandemic was wreaking havoc last year and strict rules of quarantine meant that Mirabai could not train at the Patiala training centre, the then Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju jumped in for a rescue act and ensured that Mirabai was sent to the United States for a training camp, so that she reaches Tokyo fully prepared and confident.
After a dismal performance at the Olympics from the athletes Hohn was training, the federation is mulling on not renewing his contract. And it serves him as well as the liberal lobby right for trying to find ways to insert politics and vendetta in a once-a-lifetime victory.
Despite the government’s active involvement in the training of athletes, there still might be grey areas where improvement is needed. But taking a public platform, after being removed as the coach of the athlete and claiming to speak on behalf of him just proves that Hohn was trying to vent out his frustration and anger.