With less than a year to go for the Tokyo Olympics, South Korea's Kim Ji Hyun has stepped down from her position as India's women's singles badminton coach to attend to her ailing husband in New Zealand.
Kim, who was roped in by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) earlier this year, played a crucial role in guiding PV Sindhu to the World Championships gold in Basel, Switzerland last month.
However, the 45-year-old from Busan had to rush to New Zealand to be beside her husband Ritchie Marr, who suffered a neuro stroke about a fortnight ago.
"It is true, Kim has resigned as her husband is pretty unwell. He suffered a kind of neuro stroke sometime during the World Championship. So she rushed back. She needs to take care of him as it will take around 4 to 6 months for him to recover," India's chief national coach Pullela Gopichand told PTI.
Kim had developed a good rapport with Sindhu, who had acknowledged the Korean's role in her success. Sindhu said the unforeseen situation doesn't leave her with any option but to go on without Kim. "It is unfortunate that Kim had to leave at this stage...and I wish her husband a quick recovery," Sindhu said.
"I had a good rapport with her and I know it will be a fresh start for me but it is something which is part of a sportsperson's life. I will have to work harder and I am sure Gopi sir and the BAI will take care of everything," she added.
Her father P V Ramana said Sindhu will be seeking assistance from men's singles coach Park Tae Sang as and when required. "Kim had given special individual attention to Sindhu during the last few months. She worked on her skills in morning and evening sessions," he said.
"So now that she has had to leave, we will have to see if someone is hired to replace her. There is also the men's singles coach Park Tae Sang, who can train her now," he added.
Interestingly, Kim is India's third foreign coach to have resigned without completing her tenure. Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo, who had guided the men's singles players to multiple Superseries titles in 2017, had resigned abruptly in late 2017 after citing personal reasons too. He later joined the Singapore squad.
Malaysia's Tan Kim Her had also stepped down as India's doubles coach earlier this year, 18 months before his tenure was to end at the Tokyo Olympics.
Badminton Association of India (BAI) will now have to quickly find a replacement for Kim, given that the Olympics qualification is currently on and the Tokyo Games is just 10 months away.
"We are trying to get someone to fill in her boots. But it will be again a stop-gap arrangement. We need to find a permanent solution," Gopichand said.