Even as India won only its second-ever gold medal in rowing at the Asian Games on Friday, troubled brewed in its coaching ranks with foreign coach Nicolae Gioga claiming that he had been fired as the national coach. "You want a controversy? Yesterday I have been fired as the rowing coach," Gioga said.
Trouble had been brewing in the Indian contingent for a while but had apparently boiled over after a dismal performance in the finals on Thursday. India had qualified five finalists in the rowing events on the day but not win a single medal.
Gioga would later say that one of his rowers - Dattu Bhokanal - had given up in his race. He also said that the other Indian rowers had not trained hard enough in practice and had been susceptible to injury. Other coaches, however felt there had been issues in training - Gioga apparently eschewed strength workouts and exercising on the rowing machine and preferred to train his athletes directly on the water.
The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) though refused to comment on whether Gioga had indeed been given his marching orders. "There have been issues but they will only be discussed when the team returns to India," says Gaurav Phadnis, CEO of the Rowing Federation of India.
An official who wished not to be identified, however, confirmed that Gioga's tenure had indeed ended. "He will likely not be returning," the official said of Gioga, who came into the venue wearing a Romania national team T-shirt.
Gioga had been signed on board by RFI in December last year in a bid to change the colour of the country's medals at the Asian Games. Prior to Friday's result in the quadruple sculls, India had only won a single gold through Bajrang Lal Takher at the 2010 Games.
Gioga was seen as a maverick coach - one player says he described himself as "choleric". However the the 66-year-old Romanian had a track record of producing results. He had won five gold medals with the Romanian national team at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics before coaching teams in Asia, including China and Iran. At the 2017 Asian Rowing Championships, he coached Iran to five gold medals.
Despite the result in the lake on Friday. Gioga was unsatisfied with the Indian team's results. "I came with the goal of winning seven gold medals. I have only won one. What kind of result is this? This is a black mark on my CV," Gioga said after the race.