Derek Boosey became the first High Performance Director for Athletics in October 2015 © Getty Images (Representational Image)
Derek Boosey became the first High Performance Director for Athletics in October 2015 © Getty Images (Representational Image)

By Philem Dipak Singh

New Delhi: India’s newly-appointed Athletics High Performance Director Derek Boosey feels the country has a realistic chance of winning an elusive track-and-field medal in the 2020 Olympics provided the focus is on “talented” juniors. The 73-year-old, who was born in Pune and has an ancestral connection with India, became the first High Performance Director for Athletics in October 2015. “We need to focus on juniors. There is a lot of talent among the juniors in this country. In the 2020 Olympics, we can seriously plan for a medal and we can plan on juniors. That is the objective,” the 1968 Mexico City Olympian told PTI in an interview.

“You need to plan. We can win medals in 2020, why not? For that we need very good Indian coaches, many more than we have now. And we need all-weather (Indoor) facilities in four -five cities in the country,” said the former triple jumper. India has not won a single athletics medal in the Olympics though a few athletes have reached the finals. Elaborating on the need for a bigger pool of internationally qualified coaches, Boosey said, “We need to have domestic coaches who have passed IAAF coaching levels 1, 2, 3 or 4 etc. The foreign coaches we have now are very good but we need domestic coaches in the long run. It will take some time to have internationally qualified domestic coaches in large numbers. But we have to start,” said Boosey, who holds citizenship of the USA, United Kingdom and Canada, though he currently uses the American passport.

Asked if he felt that India lacks in athletics infrastructure, he said, “The infrastructure is good and the Sports Authority of India has done well. But we cannot depend on the government alone. We need indoor centres in New Delhi, Patiala, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram and may be in Pune. We need all-weather facilities so that athletes can train throughout the year in the country. There are good facilities at Ooty and a Center of Excellence will be coming up at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi,” he said.

Boosey has worked in several capacities in various countries as head coach and consultant of national teams, as top administrator of major Games and marketing head of national athletics bodies and companies like Nike. He has also published coaching manuals which were approved by the IAAF for its development programmes throughout the world. With the Indian economy among the fastest growing in the world, Boosey said it’s time to convince the corporate sector to invest in athletics.

“We cannot rely only on government. We have to convince the Indian corporate sector to invest money in athletics. We have to raise our own money. Only then, athletics will go up in profile in India.” His designation may sound that he’s involved in the performance aspect of the athletes but he said he’s not directly related to that and he is more of an administrator. “I am not a coach. I am in administration and not in coaching. I planned with the coaches. They [coaches] planned coaching and training of athletes though final approval may be given by me. So, it is more of a supervision work,” he said.

“I don’t dictate and it is a team work. Things like budgeting, competition calendar etc. involve everybody. In the three and half months since I took charge, I have travelled throughout India, at the SAI Centers and some of the academies coming up. I am getting to know things. It is a huge job in such a big country.” Boosey said his contract will expire in August after the Rio Olympics though it may be renewed after a review. He, however, wants the SAI to do the review in June instead of August.

“My contract is upto August and there will be a review in August. Media reports say that my contract will be renewed if they [SAI] are happy with my work but I don’t know. I want the review to be done in June instead of August. If they [SAI] don’t renew my contract after the review [in August] then I will be without a job at the end of August. If the review is done in June and my contract is not renewed, I can plan for my future in advance before my contract ends in August,” he reasoned.

Boosey, however, said the review by SAI should not be on the basis of the performance of Indian athletes in Rio Olympics. “Rio performance cannot be the basis for the review. How can it be? Had it been the case, I would not have taken up this job,” he said when asked if the review could be based on the Rio Olympics performance.