Fresh roadblock for India's Olympic preparations as foreign table tennis coach 'unfit' to join team
New Delhi: Newly-appointed foreign table tennis coach Dejan Papic's stint with the Indian team could end even before he takes charge as the Canadian's joining has been delayed by at least the next two months due to a knee surgery he has undergone.
Papic had accepted the coaching offer in July after much deliberation but at that time Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) secretary M P Singh said he was not aware of his medical condition.
The current situation has led to more loss of crucial time for the players, who have been preparing on their own for next year's Olympics and are without a coach since the 2018 Asian Games, where India won its first table tennis medal in 60 years.
The unprecedented performance had raised hopes of an Olympic medal.
"Papic will take another two months to recover. Players are losing crucial time and we realise that but we got to know about his knee surgery much later after the appointment process was completed," M P Singh told PTI on Wednesday.
"We have approached a few coaches to take charge of the national squad. We are awaiting their response," he added.
TTFI is keen to sign German coach Jorg Bitzegaio, who is currently with the USA team.
"Our leading players, Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan, have given their thumbs up to Jorg. We hear that he resigned as USA coach but his resignation was not accepted. Hopefully, they accept his resignation so that he can come to India at the earliest," added Singh.
Indian table tennis has made massive strides over the past 18 months despite not having a coach for the majority of that period.
Earlier this month, Sathiyan beat World No.5 Harimoto Tomokazu in the team events besides becoming only the second Indian to enter the quarterfinals of the Asian Championships.
"More than me, the younger crop has been badly affected by the lack of a national coach. I train outside India at times and have my own coach too (S Raman) but they have been left direction-less as there are no camps taking place in the country. Too much time has been lost," Sathiyan, India's highest-ranked player at 30, told PTI.
The TTFI had short-listed Papic back in March but it was only in July that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) sent him the contract. And there was a further delay in the process as Papic took time to sign the contract owing to administrative issues.