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Commonwealth Games 2018: No country for devoted people - India's chief swimming coach not paid for 8 years

Vrinda Chopra
ANALYST
Exclusive
807   //    23 Mar 2018, 14:06 IST

Sajan P
Sajan Prakash, the protege of Pradeep Sreedharan

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (CWG) is inching closer by the day, and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is all set to send a strong contingent to Australia to represent the nation.

Over two hundred athletes and a hundred officials will travel to the Games. The list is made up of nearly 60 coaches, a team of 20 doctors and physiotherapists, seven managers and 40 extra officials, including Indian Olympics Association (IOA) joint secretary and Chef-de-Mission Vikram Sisodia.

But all is not well within the Indian camp. Reports have emerged that national swimming team coach Pradeep Sreedharan, whose name has been included in the list of staff traveling to Australia, has been an absentee and that he is neither a part of the national camp nor the coach of the team.

Speculation is rife that Sreedharan was only included because he had been appointed as chief national coach a few years ago; that since he remains in the good books of the officials, he got a confirmed seat on the flight to the land Down Under.

However, Sreedharan and star swimmer Sajan Prakash have cleared the air around the matter in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda. Prakash said, "In spite of not being paid by the officials since 2010, Sreedharan has continuously devoted his services towards the team and has, on more than one occasion, agreed to coach and travel with the Indian swimmers.

Even though there is no guarantee that he will get paid for his CWG work, Sreedharan has selflessly agreed to lose out on the pay at his Dubai job, in order to help the Indian team.

Sreedharan said, “I am still the national coach. But I’ve been in Dubai for some time because over the last year and a half, I have not had any job. Nor do I get any salary from the Government of India for being the national coach. I have not been paid since 2010…

“The Federation has made several requests to the Sports Authority of India, sent several letters to them, and has also held several meetings with them. But somehow, this has not happened till now."

As for the point about why Sreedharan is in the Indian contingent to begin with, the coach has set the record straight.

He said, “Sajan asked for me to coach them at the Games, so I decided to go. It’s not like I forced them to make me the national coach for the Commonwealth Games. I have nothing to gain. The number of days that I will be gone, I will miss out on the salary that I get here.

"See, I’ve been coaching for so many years now. So when somebody asks for a coach, I don’t look at money and all,” he added.

Sajan and Sreedharan make for quite a dynamic duo, as evidenced by the success they have enjoyed together in various swimming events over the years.

"Sajan didn't come here because I called him. He is training because of the FINA scholarship. The FINA coaches have even invited me to come during his sessions," Sreedharan said.

"We both understand each other very well, and it’s all about the chemistry. He has been my student for over six years now," he added.

It seems clear that Sreedharan is committed to doing his best for India's swimmers at the Games. But is the government committed to giving Sreedharan a fair deal?

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Vrinda Chopra
ANALYST
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