Top athletes -- including K M Binu and Sunita Rani, two of India's [ Images ] medal prospects in the international arena -- at the national coaching camp can really look forward to some world-class training from a Belarussian coach who arrived in India in March.
Nikolai K Snesarev, one of the three foreigners in charge, has won the highest honour conferred on coaches in the erstwhile USSR and Belarus. A doctor, he has already become an instant hit with athletes in the senior and junior camps.
Snesarev, who celebrated his 57th birthday on Monday with his wards, has an impressive resume for the job with special proficiency in middle-distance, long-distance, marathon, steeplechase, 20 and 50 km walking, therapeutic massage plus adequate knowledge of sports medicine.
One striking difference between Snesarev and other Russians who coached in India earlier is that the new man is comfortable with English and also media savvy.
As he moves around the lush green practice ground, amidst a picturesque background at the Netaji Subas National Institute of Sports Complex in Patiala, taking notes and giving tips to the youngsters, he seems to have a clear vision about the job on hand.
"Indian athletes are as good as any. Provided they work hard they can really go places," Snesarev said.
Asked to identify some outstanding talent he saw since taking over, he was a bit hesitant in taking names but pinned high hopes on Asian Games medal winner and women's 1500m national record holder Sunita Rani and K M Binu, national record holder in men's 400m and Asian Games silver medal winner in 800m.
"It is a bit too early to predict who will win medals for India in the international arena. But Sunita and Binu, provided they work really hard to make up for the lost time, are really capable of delivering the goods," he said.
Snesarev had worked as the manager and coach of several elite athletes and was head coach of the junior long distance running and steeplechase team of the USSR.
He was consultant of the USSR team in middle-distance, long-distance, marathon, steeplechase and walking.
He also served as the Deputy Director in Science of Track and Field Department in Belarus and was also on the rolls of several soccer clubs.
Snesarev has also presented and published a number of papers at various international meetings including on the 'Modern Trends in Preparation of Long-Distance Runners' at the Scientific Conference of Track and Field, Department of Belarus State Academy of Physical Education and Sports in Minsk in 2002.
The doctor, together with a team of Indian coaches, is closely monitoring the progress of the athletes as they slowly get into the competition mode with the onset of the new season.
Asked about the training facilities provided to the athletes, he showed around the serene setting and said: "The setting is superb, isn't it? What more can you ask for?"
But he was also for taking Indian athletes for overseas training to give them sufficient exposure and enable them participate in competitions.
The new coach has been given a contract till the 2006 Asian Games, to be held in Doha, Qatar. Before that he will get plenty of chances to showcase his wards at the international level, including the Asian Grand Prix [ Images ] circuit, Asian Athletics Championships and the Melbourne [ Images ] Commonwealth Games [ Images ].
Top Athletics Federation of India officials are also very pleased with the work ethics of the new coach.
"The best part is that he has managed to convince athletes not to worry about getting injured and to take part in as many competitions as possible," they said.
"Plus he can fluently talk in English which makes it very easy for the athletes to follow the instructions."