James Hillier, head coach of the Reliance Foundation’s Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) in Odisha, is expecting his wards to win “several medals” at the upcoming Federation Cup in Calicut.
He expressed his optimism after 17 personal best (PB) timings at the finale of the Performance Graded Race series held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar last week. As many as 10 athletes from the HPC will be competing at the Federation Cup. The HPC is a collaborative effort of the Odisha government and Reliance Foundation and began formal operations in 2019.
“As I reflect, I try and look how far we have come and how much we have achieved in the last two and a half years in difficult Covid affected times,” said Hillier. “It’s easy to focus on current issues and often we don’t take enough time to reflect on the amazing journey we have been on. “Our focus will continue to be on high quality coaching of our athletes, coach development and holistic athlete development and athletics development in the state of Odisha which will focus on increasing the numbers of young people doing athletics in the state and improve the depth of quality of talent coming into the HPC.
The HPC team led by Head Coach James Hillier presented Sports Secy a memento signed by the entire team of HPC Athletes, class of 2021-2022. pic.twitter.com/JR47wLk4bM
— Odisha Sports (@sports_odisha) March 26, 2022
“We feel that if we keep pushing these three things we will significantly increase the success of our programme.” The concept of Performance Graded Races, introduced by Hillier, features athletes competing against each other entirely on the basis of their timings, irrespective of age or sex. “We are running education classes, offering opportunities for the athletes in computers, learning a musical instrument and other aspects that will help their overall education and exposure,” he said.
“We treat the athletes as human beings primarily and feel strongly that a well-rounded athlete will not only be better on the track but also be a more valuable contributor to society.” A total of 30 individual events were contested at the event with over 200 athletes from across the state joining athletes from the HPC to produce a high-quality competition in what Hillier described as “a vibrant, energising environment for athletes to excel.” A dedicated 100m race for para athletes was conducted with seven athletes competing. Several para athletes also competed in the long jump.