AFI Media

New Delhi, March 5: Athletics Federation of India today condoled the sudden demise of noted distance running coach Nikolai Snesarev in the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports in Patiala. The 72-year-old Belarussian national died with his boots on, having overseen his wards’ training this morning.

AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla led the outpouring of grief in the athletics community. “We are stunned by the news that coach Nikolai was found dead in his room today. He returned to India only a few days ago, having agreed to train steeplechaser Avinash Sable for the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he said. “We will cherish his long association with Indian athletics and will miss him.”

Mr. Sumariwalla said India was fortunate to have benefit from Nikolai Snesarev’s rich experience over a number of years. “He was a hard-taskmaster and one who developed his own training routines for his athletes. He was highly respected in the international circles and we were privileged that he shared a wonderful relationship with India,” he said.

Having first come to India in 2005, Nikolai Snesarev coached 10,000m runners Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut to a 1-2 finish in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and Steeplechaser Sudha Singh to gold. It was the first time that Indian women won medals in the 25-lap race.

Later that year, he suggested to Lalita Babar to shift to Steeplechase. And, thanks to his sustained efforts, she became the first Indian athlete to reach a track final in the Olympic Games since PT Usha in 1984 when she made it to the Steeplechase final in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He trained a number of Indian distance runners to attain peak performance.

“As someone who believed in research, he showed us the way with his pioneering efforts towards improving the endurance and speed of his athletes. He insisted that athletes never touch any medicines while training with him, imposing a blanket ban on all kinds of medication, even prescribed ones,” Mr. Sumariwalla said.