Denied pay hike, athletics coach Nikolai decides to quit

Patiala: Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev, who shaped long distance runners Preeja Sreedharan, Sudha Singh and Kavita Raut into Asian Games medal winners, has decided not to return to India after the sports ministry refused to agree to the salary hike he demanded.

Nikolai had demanded a substantial hike in his pay if his contract was to be renewed to be part of the athletics coaching staff to prepare for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

He had wanted USD 8,000 per month instead of the USD 5,000 he was getting. He had also wanted his wife, a qualified masseur, to be employed by SAI.

SAI, on the other hand, was not ready to give more than USD 6,000 per month, a hike of USD 1,000, besides offering USD 2,000 for his wife to which the coach refused.

Nikolai had left for home in December last after his wards produced splendid performances in the Asian Games. SAI had asked him to respond by April 30, if he agrees to the new terms.

AFI sources said that Nikolai has communicated to the federation a few days ago that he is not coming back to India to work under the sports ministry`s new offer.

"He has sent us a mail, saying that he is not willing to work under the new offer. He said he had very fond memories of working in India but he is not coming back," the source said.

Under Nikolai, the performance of long distance runners like Preeja Sreedharan, Kavita Raut and Sudha Singh improved in the last few years.

Preeja won a gold in 10,000m and silver in 5,000m in the Asian Games last year, Sudha also bagged the yellow metal in 3,000m steeplechase in the same Games.

Kavita had won a bronze and a silver in 10,000m in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. A disappointed Kavita said it was a huge loss for her that Nikolai has decided not to come back.

"What can I say? It will be a huge loss for me. Personally for me, he has had a major role in my improvement and achievements in the last few months. I heard about the issue of pay hike with the SAI and I thought he would stay with us," Kavita said from her home in Nashik district.

AFI officiating secretary Ravinder Chowhdury, however, said the federation is still hopeful of Nikolai staying in India.

"We are trying to convince him to stay in India. We are hopeful that we would be able to work out something. Let us see," he said.

Meanwhile, other two foreign coaches Yuri Ogrodonik, who looks after women`s 400m hurdles and 4X400m relay races, and Dimitri Vinaygan, who looks after men`s sprints athletes, have joined the National Institute of Sports here. Yuri and Dimitri were the other two foreign coaches, besides Nikolai, whom sports ministry had agreed to renew contracts till the London Olympics.

Under Yuri, the Indian women`s 4X400m relay team won the gold medal in both Commonwealth and Asian Games. Yuri`s ward Ashwini Akkunji had also bagged a gold in 400m hurdle in the Asian Games.

Meanwhile, the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Meet will be held in Bangalore from June 11-14 instead of in Chennai after Tamil Nadu unit expressed its inability to host it.