Sport coaches: India

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Prominent in 2018

As told to Rohit E David and Avijit Ghosh, INDIA’S REAL TALENT-SPOTTERS, September 9, 2018: The Times of India

These athletes have won gold at the recent Asian Games in Indonesia. Sunday Times chats with the coaches who spotted the spark early and nurtured their talent

Seen on the street

KM Peter Trainer of Jinson Johnson, 1500m

A bank employee, KM Peter first saw a 16-year-old Jinson Johnson running on the streets of Kulathuvayal in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. When he asked if the boy would train with him, Johnson nodded. Peter, a part-time running coach, started Johnson on the basics. The 56-year-old saw that Johnson had the speed and stamina needed for a sprinter. “Johnson stayed just a kilometre away my place, so I’d wake him up early in the morning for training,” says Peter. Within a year, Johnson, now 27, was participating in district games

Short, overweight but man, could she jump

Subhash Sarkar

First coach of Swapna Barman, women’s heptathlon gold

In 2011, Subhash Sarkar met a 14-year girl who kept challenging herself. “She was not at all what a sportsperson needs to be. She was short, overweight, but could do high jump,” says Sarkar of Swapna Barman. Sarkar, a 55-year-old former national-level long-jump runner, looked beyond. “She was lacking in speed but had determination,” he says. Within a year, her high jump had improved and he asked her to take up javelin — and before long she was training for the seven events of a heptathlon

A chubby kid with an impressive arm

Jaiveer Chaudhary Got javelinist Neeraj Chopra to throw for the first time

In the winter of 2010, Chaudhary was practising his javelin throws at Panipat’s Shiva-ji Stadium when he spotted Neeraj Chopra, then a chubby 13-yearold, exercising to lose weight. Chaudhary insisted, and Neeraj threw a javelin. “It travelled 35-40m, pretty impressive for a first-timer,” he says. A quote on a wall at Chaudhary’s home in Khandra reads: ‘A single idea can light up your life’. It certainly did for gold medalist Neeraj Chopra

Baby brother to star

Anil Dhankar First coach of Amit Panghal, 49kg boxing

Amit wasn’t the one boxing at Anil Dhankar’s academy in Rohtak initially; it was his older brother Ajay. Amit came to watch. One day, Dhankar spotted Amit sparring with some of his academy’s senior members. When he was transferred to Gurgaon, Dhankar took Amit along. Amit stayed with Dhankar’s family for five years, and both would go to the stadium early in the morning.

Today, Dhankar teaches more than 100 children in Rohtak who are keen to follow Amit’s path

Gave up his dream but helped students’ dreams come true

Amit Sheoran First coach of shooter Saurabh Chaudhary

Amit Sheoran was a state-level shooter but gave up his dream as he couldn’t afford training.

“I decided to teach youngsters, give them the opportunities I never got,” says Sheoran, who set up a range on his farm. When Chaudhary arrived at the tin shed range in 2015, he was 13 and had never held an air pistol. At the academy in Baghpat district, Chaudhary took baby steps, and is now one of the country’s stars

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