MANGALURU: Amidst the motley weekend crowd one person stood out. Rucksack on his back, he was fastidiously following every step of some of the athletes during the Senior National Championships for the Federation Cup on Friday.
Sometimes capturing their strides and movements with a handycam and sometimes just standing there, watching the athletes go through their motions, at times he was yelling their names in a heavy European accent.
Though his virtuosity lies in training athletes in his adopted country Kenya, Dutchman Hugo van der Broek has taken up a new challenge on Indian shores. It’s been barely two months here but he knows what ails Indian runners, especially long-distance operators.
He has seen the best train in Kenya and what he finds lacking here is athletes’ knowledge of their own body and their ability to read when the body is saying no.
“I feel they over-train,” said Broek, a sports scientist who qualified as coach a year ago. “They follow a strict regimen here and just go on doing it. Kenyans listen to their body. They feel their body. If they feel they can’t run, they don’t. They skip training and come back fresh. Top athletes have to know their body. He or she should know when to train hard and when to stop.”
Broek believes for an endurance athlete, it’s important to recover well. “They spend three days on the track and when the coach says 1000m in 3 minutes, they do that. Also, top Kenyan athletes train a bunch of athletes who follow them,” said Broek, who is training 15 for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Broek took this assignment more as a challenge. An initiative of the Procam (promoters of Delhi half marathon and Mumbai marathon), the endeavour is to train athletes for 2020. “I have a contract following which I stay here for three months and train 15 youngsters and take them to Kenya for a month,” he said.
However, the selection of athletes will be strictly on merit and timing. “It’s an ongoing process. Whoever doesn’t perform, will be out,” said Broek who has been in Kenya since 2007.
Broek’s base is the SAI Centre in Bhopal. “But we are free to use any SAI centre. We need to request them and they oblige. I’m planning to take athletes to Dharamsala because the weather and altitude would be favourable.”