The 72-year-old contributed heavily in the growth of Indian athletics.

India’s noted distance running coach Dr. Nikolai Snesarev passed away in his room at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala on Friday. The Belarussian national died with his boots on, having overseen his wards’ training in the morning.

Athletics Federation of India (AFI) condoled the sudden demise of the legendary coach who was associated with Indian athletics since 2005 and contributed heavily to the success of India at the international level.

AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla led the outpouring of grief in the athletics community. He said, “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. We will cherish his long association with Indian athletics and will miss him.”

Sumariwalla said India was fortunate to have benefited from Nikolai Snesarev’s rich experience over a number of years. The President remarked, “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.”

“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,” said Sumariwalla.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju also expressed grief over the death of the athletics coach. He tweeted, “I’m deeply saddened to learn about the sad demise of middle and long-distance running coach Nikolai Snesarev. He has been a great coach and helped many medal winners during his association with India since 2005. My condolences to his family and the entire athletics fraternity.”

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.

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