The entire controversy surrounding marathon runner O.P. Jaisha’s claims that the athletic federation officials had abandoned her during the Rio Games fell flat with sensational revelations made by her personal coach Nikolai Snesarev. The Belarussian maintained that Jaisha had flatly refused any energy drink during the race.
“I had clearly asked her (Jaisha) whether she needed any personalised refreshment during the race. She flatly said no and even said that she wanted only water during the fixed intervals. After hearing from her, I conveyed her message to the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) officials.
When asked whether he was commenting after coming under pressure from the AFI, Nikolai flaty denied this charge. “I want to clarify here that I am not issuing this pressure under the influence of anyone or any federation. I am merely stating the facts as I think the public needs to know the ‘right’ facts,” he said.
When asked why he had taken such a long time to come out with his version, Nikolai said that he was waiting for an opportune moment. “When such a big controversy happens, one has to wait for the right moment to say something. In my case, too, I was waiting for the right moment to come out with my version of the events,” he added.
Nikolai’s comments completely quash Jaisha’s claims that despite her asking the AFI officials for personalised refreshments, no one provided her with them and under the scorching heat in Rio she nearly died while running. Her claim has been denied by the AFI.
Nikolai went on to say, “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.
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 yes since she had never used them earlier in competitions. “Yes , I confirm that the AFI officials had asked me before whether I needed refreshments during the race, I told them I wanted them,” she said.
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,” he added.
He also said that he had spoken to some runners about the availability of water. “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.