Tokyo Olympics: Neeraj Chopra’s fantastic and historic gold medal in javelin throw on Saturday at Tokyo Games took India’s tally to 7 medals, the highest in Olympics. India brought a total of 1 gold, two silver and four bronze medals across six disciplines including PV Sindhu in badminton who became India’s first female athlete to bag two Olympic medals. But while Indian athletes made India proud, behind each one of them, there was foreign hands, rather foreign coaches who helped them reach the height.
If Neeraj Chopra was guided by German javelin legend Uwe Hohn and physiotherapist Klaus Bartonietz, PV Sindhu shined under South Korean coach Park Tae-Sang. Mirabai Chanu will also be grateful to Dr. Aaron Horschig, who helped her pull through an injury while she was in the US. In hockey, Graham Reid led India men’s team to their first Olympic medal in 41 years.
At InsideSport, we look at foreign coaches without whom a podium finish would not have been possible for India’s star performers.
Mirabai Chanu (Silver, Dr. Aaron Horschig): Mirabai Chanu ended a dark chapter in India’s weightlifting fraternity that has been struggling with multiple doping violations. Her silver medal in women’s 49-kg weightlifting was the only medal in the sport since Karnam Malleshwari’s bronze in 2000. While Mirabai Chanu was guided and mentored by Vijay Sharma, Dr. Aaron Horschig is someone she will be forever indebted to. The strength and conditioning coach helped her fight through back pain and tightness in her shoulders just nine months before Tokyo Olympics. Mirabai Chanu and Vijay Sharma visited Dr Aaron in USA in November last year and without him, a silver medal might not be possible.
PV Sindhu (Silver, Park Tae-Sang): India’s ace shuttler PV Sindhu made headlines with her silver medal in Rio Olympics with chief badminton coach Pallela Gopichand helping in her stride. But this time, she had to look for an alternative with Gopichand’s responsibility increasing manyfold in helping other promising Indian shuttlers. Since 2019, PV Sindhu trained under former South Korean singles player Park Tae-Sang and she had a wonderful run in Tokyo before losing to her nemesis Tai Tzu-Ying in the semifinal. However, she made amends, winning the bronze medal match against HE Bingjiao with Park Tae-Sang by her side.
Neeraj Chopra (Gold, Uwe Hohn & Klaus Bartonietz): Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold medal in javelin throw also had a foreign hand. While a billion Indians cheered and celebrated his success, Germany too might have been celebrating despite their two athletes failing to land a medal. The fact that German javelin legend Uwe Hohn, the only man to cross the 100m barrier in the sport, made Neeraj an Olympic champion. In the last few years, Neeraj has been training under Uwe Hohn. But the other German he will be indebted to is Klaus Bartonietz. The German helped him through injury after Neeraj had to undergo surgery on his right elbow in 2019 and the progress was slow. The German bio-mechanics expert helped him regain total fitness that saw Neeraj Chopra on the top of the podium.
Lovlina Borgohain (Bronze, Raffaele Bergamasco): While Mary Kom has been the most recognized boxer apart from Vijender Singh, Lovlina Borgohain booked her name in the history books winning bronze medal. But behind her podium finish, it was Italian coach Raffaele Bergamasco who relentlessly helped Indian boxers. From performing well in the World Championship to Tokyo Olympics medal. Lovlina Borgohain’s success in many ways due to Raffaele Bergamasco.
Ravi Dahiya (Silver, Kamal Malikov): Wrestler Ravi Dahiya may not be happy with a silver medal but his coach Kamal Malikov will be proud of his ward’s efforts. The silver medalist in the men’s 57kg freestyle category has been training under Kamal Malikov since April 2019. The Russian has also trained India’s double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar. Under Kamal Malikov, Ravi Dahiya has flourished and an Olympic medal is just a testament to the fact.
Bajrang Punia (Bronze, Shako Bentinidis): Like Ravi, Bajrang Punia was also assigned a foreign coach in Shako Bentinidis. The Georgian is behind Bajrang Punia’s rise. From Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medals in a tough 65-kg freestyle category. While many including Bajrang targeted gold in Tokyo, a knee injury prevented him from performing his best. But with Shako Bentinidis by his side, Bajrang earned a bronze medal.
Indian Men’s Hockey Team (Bronze, Graham Reid): In India hockey’s musical chair in coaching job, Graham Reid survived nearly two years with Olympics becoming an acid test having failed in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. Under the Australian, Manpreet Singh & Co didn’t get many opportunities to shine in international matches but Graham Reid took the opportunity to improve India’s fitness and that proved crucial in India’s historic 2020 Olympics campaign. The bronze medal finish remains India’s best performance since gold in 1980 Olympics.