The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) sacked Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra’s coach Uwe Hohn. A great javelin thrower himself, Hohn took Chopra under him in 2017 and since then has been coaching Chopra, who, in turn, had struck gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games in 2018. Hohn, 59, was also in charge as the national javelin coach at the Tokyo Olympics. Hohn remains the only javelin thrower in history to throw over 100 meters, setting the world record at 104.8 meters in 1984.
AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said they decided to send Hohn home after a performance review of athletes and coaches at the two-day executive council meeting. The AFI decided that Hohn’s performance was underwhelming, however, Klaus Bartonietz, the biomedical expert who coached Chopra when he won the gold, continues to be employed.
“We are changing Uwe Hohn. His performance is not good. We will bring two (new) coaches. We are doing what we have to do. Those who think that analysis is not happening and action is not being taken… everything is being done,” Sumariwalla told The Indian Express.
According to AFI planning commission chief Lalit K. Bhanot, javelin throwers — including Chopra, Shivpal Singh, and Annu Rani — didn’t want Hohn to train them.
“Dr. Klaus (Bartonietz) will continue to coach as (bio-mechanical) expert. We want two more coaches for javelin. It is not easy to get good coaches. But we are trying our best to get at least one more good coach,” Bhanot said.
Sumariwalla went on to blame Hohn’s poor coaching when asked about the poor performances by Shivpal and Annu. He directly pointed fingers saying that it was because “Shivpal and Annu were with Uwe Hohn.” Apart from Shivpal and Annu, the AFI is also looking for a foreign coach for shot putter Tajinder Singh Toor, reports said.
Unlike Shivpal and Annu, Chopra trained with Bartonietz just ahead of the Tokyo Games but he did give Hohn his dues for coaching Chopra to two major gold medals. “The time I spent with coach Hohn, I believe, was good and I respect him. In that year (2018), I won gold at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. I thought that his (Hohn’s) training style and technique were a bit different. Later, when I trained with Klaus, I felt his training plan suited me,” Chopra told The Indian Express after winning the Olympic gold.
In June, Hohn openly criticised the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and AFI regarding their Olympic preparations and said it was “difficult to work with them.”
“When I came here, I thought I could change something but it’s probably too difficult with these people at SAI or AFI. I don’t know if it’s a lack of knowledge or ignorance. Besides camps or competitions, even when we ask via our nutritionist for supplements for our athletes, we don’t get the right stuff. Not even for TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) athletes – medal contenders handpicked by the Sports Ministry. If we get something, we are very happy,” the Indian Express quoted Hohn as saying.
Hohn further blamed the authorities for allegedly blackmailing Bartonietz and him into signing a new contract at the beginning of April. “Otherwise, we (Hohn and Bartonietz) wouldn’t have got paid anymore. They said they would review our coaching in April and then increase our salaries. Like all promises before, these were only empty words,” he told The Indian Express.