TTFI not to hire coach for Rio Olympics, leaving TT players in lurch

New Delhi: The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has decided against hiring a foreign coach for the Rio Olympics, a move that will adversely affect the players' preparation, especially the women's team, for the Summer Games in August next year.

While top male players like Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh and Harmeet Desai play for clubs in Europe, their female counterparts are the ones who miss out on foreign exposure. The women usually get to train with foreign coaches at camps ahead of multi-sporting events like Olympics and Asian Games but that won't be the case this time around.

TTFI has done away with the practice of appointing a head coach, at least for Rio, and instead will call two coaches from either China or Korea to work with the junior teams. "We think it makes more sense to get two foreign coaches for the juniors with the money we get from the government. As it is, most of the senior male players are playing overseas, so we though it is better to spend the resources on the youth to create a bigger pool of world class players," TTFI secretary general Dhanraj Choudhary told PTI yesterday.

Veteran player and Olympian Mouma Das said her game improved after being trained by German coach Peter Engel, whose contract was not renewed post the 2014 Asian Games. "In one year with Peter sir, I improved significantly as a player even after being on the scene for close to 19 years. His inputs helped me so much that I am in regular touch with him and also follow the schedule set by him," said Mouma, a five-time national champion and Arjuna awardee.

"Foreign coaches definitely help but it would be even better if we get to play overseas like most male players. That way you are training with foreign players. While in India we are only playing against each other," the 31-year-old reigning national champion added. Sharath Kamal, India's highest-ranked player at 32, said
a foreign coach would do no harm to the team even though TTFI's latest move doesn't affect him.

"I am based in Germany, playing with some of the best in the business. So not having a foreign coach doesn't affect me as I have a team working for me in Europe," said Sharath, who underwent a hip surgery today and will be out of action for three to four months. With Olympic qualification rounds still sometime away, the focus of players is on doing well in domestic events, based on which they will be picked for the Rio qualifier.

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