The controversy stoked by sprinter O P Jaisha took an interesting turn with her personal coach Nikolai Snesarev asserting on Thursday that she herself had said no when asked by him if she would need personalised refreshment during the race in the Rio Olympics.
Belarusian Nikolai said he had told the Indian athletics officials after “clarifying” from her that she will not need personalised refreshment during the race.
National record holder Jaisha had alleged that Athletics Federation of India officials did not arrange for water and energy drinks during the race under scorching heat and due to which she nearly died while running, a claim denied by the AFI.
Nikolai said that Jaisha had never used personalised drinks during marathon competitions and she said a clear no when asked by him whether she would need them in Rio. “A day before the race, Radhakrishnan Nair (deputy chief coach) asked me whether she (Jaisha) would need individual refreshment or drinks for the race. I asked Jaisha whether she will use personalised drinks or normal water provided by organisers. She said she will use normal water only. Then I told Nair that she will not need personalised refreshment and she would prefer pure water. That is it,” Nikolai told PTI from the SAI Centre in Bangalore where he is currently based.
“Jaisha had never used individual drinks during competitions from the beginning of her Olympics preparations and she had run with only normal water. She used only normal water provided by organisers during the World Championships in Beijing in August last year. The whole of 2016, Jaisha did not use personalised drinks during competitions,” he added.
“But for clarity, as I wanted to clarify from Jaisha, I asked her whether she will need individual drinks or run with normal water in Rio. She said she will run only with normal water provided by the organisers,” said the experienced coach.
Jaisha, who fainted at the finish line after completing the race in 89th position, had alleged that there was no water, recovery drinks and refreshment available for her and only once in 8km did she get water.
Latest reports said that the 33-year-old Kerala athlete, who won a silver medal in 1500m race in the 2014 Asian Games, has put the blame on Nikolai, saying that he must have told the AFI officials that she will need personalised refreshment.
The second Indian in the fray in that marathon race, Kavita Raut had confirmed that she was asked by the AFI officials if she would need personalised refreshments to which she also had said no since she had never used them earlier in competitions. Asked if there was sufficient water arranged by the Rio race organisers, Nikolai hinted that it was not so.
“I did not run the race and have not followed Jaisha throughout the entire 42km. How can I? So, I would not know the exact situation. It would seem from a distance that the water arranged by the organisers was sufficient. My situation was as good as yours watching on a television. But I had spoken to some runners who took part in the race, who finished around 70th and below out of the 157 runners and who ran behind the leading pack, and their coaches. They said water was there but after the 25 to 30km mark, it was not sufficient. That is what these runners and coaches said. I have no means to verify what they said,” he added.
“When I spoke to Jaisha after the race, she also said the same, that the water available was not adequate in the second part of the course after around 25-30km,” he added.