World Aquatics boss in India, Swimming Federation top brass clueless

NEW DELHI: India has huge potential but the lack of leadership and proper infrastructure is impeding the country’s swimmers from achieving Olympic glory, said World Aquatics (WA) president Husain Al Musallam on Thursday.
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) interim chief Randhir Singh also criticised the swimming scenario in the country, saying as a sport it has lagged behind other Olympic disciplines.
The comments were made at an event where no high-ranking Swimming Federation of India (SFI) official was present, leaving SFI secretary-general Monal Chokshi “very surprised”.
“I am very surprised (by the development),” Chokshi, when asked if he was invited for the meet, told PTI.
Pointing out several deficiencies in India’s aquatics system, Al Musallam, who also met Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief PT Usha here, said, “From the sport I come from as Water Aquatics president, I believe India has a huge potential to be at the podium at the Olympic Games and the World Championships (in swimming).
“But (they) need a lot to work on, not just the infrastructure but to change the methods of training, taking care of athletes, high-level competition, organisation at the national level and also to take the best from outside … World Aquatics needs India to be one of the top nations in the world.
“I am not far away from the Indian sport and the Indian Olympic movement. But I can’t see good leadership, good management. India deserves a lot for the youth, the athletes and you have a good potential to be one of the top nations in the world.” Echoing similar views, Singh said, “swimming is a sport in our country which is lagging behind many sports we have taken up.
“Shooting and archery are doing well; wrestling and boxing all are doing good. Only in swimming we are not going anywhere. Some proper development should be done and that’s one of the reasons he (Al Musallam) is here.” However, SFI secretary-general Chokshi was clueless about the visit of the WA president.
“Al Musallam must have come to India on Randhir Singh’s invitation. They are in the OCA together,” he said.
While Al Musallam is the OCA director general as well, Randhir is its interim chief.
“We have the World Aquatics, Asian (swimming) federation and OCA elections happening, so there would be some meetings slotted. Officially, they had not scheduled any discussion with SFI,” said Chokshi.
Asked when the talk largely centered around swimming, shouldn’t SFI officials have been invited, he said, “Al Musallam has come for a meeting with Randhir Singh and with the IOA president in context to their personal whatever agendas they may have.
“But it is right that if he is going to address issues related to swimming, then SFI should have been there. Still, I don’t know what the agenda was. Was there an official conference related to swimming?” Reminded that he spoke mostly on swimming, Chokshi said, “Since he is the swimming president, he will speak on swimming only.” The WA president asked India to “show its potential” in organising international competitions.
“India, in my opinion, with a new look in sport and new look in the dynamic economy should aim to also organise some international event with latest technology, cost-effective and add positive impact on society.
“I would like to ask you, you have a good potential and you need to show this potential,” added Al Musallam.
The SFI has been in advanced talks with the highest level authorities in World Aquatics for a FINA development centre accreditation for the modern Aquatic Complex in Odisha and has even extended invitations to Al Musallam and the international body’s technical team to visit the facility.
“One of the proposals we put on the table, since a long time ago, is to create high-level training centres for Indian athletes in aquatics, maybe diving, maybe swimming. Because I believe it’s scattered all around India, but to get the top athletes in one place, we provide them with education that will make a big difference,” Al Musallam said.
“We have a special team that tracks the day-to-day progress of athletes. This is what we can offer and we are committed to do that. Because, for us, India is important to be there, don’t forget that aquatics is the biggest in the Olympic Games.” The SFI recently recruited Chris Martin, a member of the World Aquatics Coaches certification curriculum cell.
“We have been working closely with World Aquatics. We have brought in Mr Martin as a full-time program director to focus on junior development and coaches upskilling,” Chokshi said.


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