BENGALURU: Weightlifting is perhaps one of the most tainted sporting disciplines in the world. Rampant doping across the globe, potential corruption and subsequent cover-ups have ruined the image of the International Weightlifting Federation.
Of late, the sport is trying very hard for an image make-over, especially after the International Olympic Committee removed the sport from its priority list for the 2028 Olympics.
Like elsewhere, doping has been an issue in India, too, and there is a common perception that weightlifting success is related to substance abuse. However, Aveenash Pandoo, who was appointed as the High Performance Director in weightlifting, felt that perception is misleading and there is a definite possibility of excelling in the sport even without doping.
In India, like elsewhere, he said, he would try and educate lifters and their coaches about winning through adopting other scientific methods like right diet and nutrition, training and recovery.
Also, the basic philosophy of training must change, Pandoo opined. "We cannot pursue the old methods followed by the Russian or the Bulgarian," he said.
He felt athletes have the adapt and change. They must train and evaluate instead of waiting for a competition some six months later.
“Yes. With good education and development programmes to athletes, federation and coaches involved with the sport, it is possible," Pandoo said during an interaction hosted by Sports Authority of India on Friday. "Athletes, sometimes, are exposed to external sources and they don't know about the pros and cons. We need to basically look at educating them and giving the best advice.”
The newly-appointed director from Mauritius felt such belief can be changed. “It is unfortunate, not only in India, but also in other parts of the world, our sport has always been linked to doping. Sometimes coaches are greedy, they want their athletes to perform so they can get better salaries, and so on. We have to make them understand that they have to work cleanly. We need to start embarking on a new adventure with our coaches, monitor them closely. We have to look at – the peaks of certain athletes shooting up. If we have doubts, we need to do some investigations, homework. There will be a whole load of ideas that will be discussed and put through with regards to these points with SAI and IWLF.”
However, when it comes to his primary job, Pandoo says he will focus on the youth and junior development programmes. Other areas of focus will be on talent development identification.
His work also entails a coaching education programme, which is going to be very important for a number of reasons. It is here where Pandoo wants to bring about a change in the mindset of the coaches and get them to adapt to the sport's changing landscape.
With the growing demands of the sport, both at the mental and physical level, one has also witnessed how athletes are picking competitions they want to participate in. He felt that juniors should compete regularly while top athletes can be a bit selective.
“If we are talking about high-level athletes, yes, we can be selective on what competitions we need to be going to. But there are competitions, which are qualifications too, which the athletes have to feature in. Coaches have to take that into account,” said Pandoo.
“The landscape of the sport is also changing. This is where we have to revisit the coach's mindset. Our sport is so badly documented. It is still lying in the old philosophy. It is time that we change that philosophy of our coaches, insisting on athletes competing once every four to six months. Train and evaluate. And improve. We have to now train, review, monitor and evaluate so that we can get a new understanding of how our sport has to go forward.”
Mirabai should be selective
India's Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Mirabai Chanu should be intelligently selecting her competitions before the 2024 Paris Olympics as she would add a couple of more years to her 27. Pandoo felt winning a medal is possible and she has to manage her workload well.
"Mirabai will deliver at the Paris Olympics," said Pandoo. "Her coach Vijay Sharma and she would definitely find a way of doing it."
The HPD also talks about how he would want to go ahead once he joins the camp. "I would like to sit down with SAI and Indian Weightlifting Federation to chalk out a roadmap for all our lifters. I would also like to share my training programme with coaches."