Athletics Federation of India Decides To Stop National Camps After Paris Olympics 2024

The decision to stop running national camps for elite athletics will open the room for public and private players. AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said that there are other good facilities in the country where the athletes can be trained

Athletics Federation of India annual general meeting in Amritsar

In a significant development, the Athletics Federation of India on Sunday decided to stop running national camps for elite athletes after the Paris Olympics, leaving the door open for public and private entities to take care of the top players. (Sports News)

"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 here.

"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.

"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.

"We have 5-10 SAI centres but we can have 200 such centres (for training with public and private entities' participation). The athletes will have more access, they can stay at their homes and not at camps for training."

The AFI's move would mean that top athletes like Neeraj Chopra, Murali Sreeshankar and Avinash Sable will not train under the aegis of the AFI after 2024 Paris, though it will continue to monitor them.

The athletes can now come directly under public and private entities, including states such as Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, which have also appointed foreign coaches.

The AFI will, however, monitor the athletes through a team of coaches.

Currently, the AFI conducts centralised national training camps of around 130-150 elite athletes under the supervision of 50-60 support staff, mainly at NIS Patiala, Bengaluru SAI Centre and LNCPE in Thiruvananthapuram.

Chopra mainly trains outside India while Sreeshankar is coached by his father S. Murali in Kerala. Both are supported by JSW.

Sumariwalla said the idea is to decentralise the camps and spread them through the country so that the athletes can train closer to their homes. The AFI is, however, yet to chalk out the modalities of how the public and private entities will take charge of running the training camps and how the federation will monitor the athletes.

Junior Programme, 4x400m Relay Teams To Remain Under AFI

The junior national training camps, being held at the National Centres of Excellence (NCOEs) in collaboration will AFI, will remain with the federation.

The AFI added that it will continue to train the men's 4x400m, women's 4x400m and mixed 4x400m relay teams.

"The three relay teams will have to be under the direct supervision of AFI as the relay members cannot train separately as they need coordination. We will also continue to hold competitions," AFI Planning Commission chairman Lalit Bhanot said.

The AFI will also take care of the athletes during foreign exposure tours.

The federation's decision to stop running national camps would mean less control over dope testing of athletes.

The AFI, while admitting this, said the pros outweigh the cons.

One reason behind the move to allow public and private entities to enter the training domain is to increase the size of the athletes' pool, which currently stands between 100 and 150.

"If the training camps are spread across the country, they will be accessible to a lot more athletes. The pool of elite athletes will be more and the competition will be tougher. We hope this will produce more world beaters," said Bhanot.

It's In The Best Interest Of Athletics: Anju

Legendary athlete and AFI senior vice-president Anju Bobby George said the exit of the AFI from running training camps was the right decision and the way forward to achieve more success on the international stage.

"The study (academics) of athletes was also a major concern. If an athlete is training at NIS or Bengaluru or Thiruvananthapuram for 11 months in a year, it is very difficult for them to study.

Now they can train closer to their homes and can also study properly," said the 2003 World Championships bronze medallist long-jumper on the  sidelines of AFI's AGM.

"Not just the athletes, the coaches also have to leave their families and stay at the national camps for 11 months in a year. They can now opt for training camps near their homes."

She admitted that there could be issues during the initial months but it would take Indian athletics forward.

"Currently, the AFI can call anybody from any part of the country for camps at NIS or Bengaluru. But now what will happen if for example an athlete from Tamil Nadu wants to train in Kerala? These kinds of things we will have to deal with initially but ultimately it will, hopefully, lead us to a better system." she said.