Coach Ko Salaam: Teachers of the Sports Stars
(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Teachers’ Day. It was first published on 4 September 2016.)
5th September is Teacher’s Day. All of India bows in reverence to the teachers who shape our characters and intellects during the formative years. We bring you a quick compilation of the sports coaches who not only spotted the talent in India’s sports stars but also put them through the grind that churns out winners.
Sakshi Malik’s bronze at the Rio Olympics came after 12 years of hard work put in not just by Sakshi but also her coach Ishwar Singh Dahiya. The latter had to fight biases against training women in a predominantly male-sport.
Olympics silver-medalist Badminton player PV Sindhu’s coach Pullela Gopichand sounds like a stern teacher when one hears from him that he restrained her from eating ice-cream and using her cell phone in the run up to the Olympic finals. But in reality, he was only conditioning her for bigger challenges. Gopichand has trained several achiever shuttlers with all-round inputs, something that he did not get during his playing years.
Everyone knows Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar seeks the blessings of his childhood coach Ramakant Achrekar on the occasion of Guru Purnima every year. The legendary batsman even tweeted a picture where he is seen bowing down to his coach as a mark of unwavering respect.
Dipa Karmakar’s coach Bishweswar Nandi not only spotted her talent, but also helped the girl train for a rather dangerous vault event once she was firm about her choice. Nandi did not shirk away from physical stress of travelling to Delhi with Dipa for her training nor from the efforts to acquire expensive equipment for her with the government’s aid. His efforts paid off when Dipa became the first Indian to qualify for the gymnastics event in Olympics. Dipa may have not won a medal at the Rio Olympics but she sure won the hearts of billions.
Mahavir Phogat was an amateur wrestler and senior Olympics coach. He is the father & coach of his daughter Geeta Phogat who won India’s first ever gold medal in women’s wrestling in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG). Geeta was also the first-ever Indian woman to qualify for wrestling at the Olympics. Mahavir Phogat also coached his second daughter Babita Kumar who won a bronze medal at the 2012 World Wrestling Championships and won a gold at the 2014 CWG. Phogat’s niece Vinesh Phogat is also a CWG gold medallist. Aamir Khan’s film ‘Dangal’ is based on Phogat’s brave decision & journey to teach his daughters to take up a ‘manly sport’ in a Haryana, where the traditional preference for a male child is notoriously well-known.
And last but not at all the least, who does not know the former India goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi who went into hiding after he was accused of accepting money to ensure India’s 1-7 loss to Pakistan in the 1982 Asiad.
Negi famously returned as goalkeeping coach for the 1998 Asian Games where the Indian men won the gold.
He was goalkeeping coach of the Indian women’s team which won the 2002 Commonwealth Games and assistant coach when Indian women won the Asia Cup in 2004. Shah Rukh Khan’s “Chak De India” was loosely based on Negi’s story of a sportsman who rebounds with a sweet and honest vengeance – in the avatar of a kingmaker coach.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam