'Indian' hockey fitness trainer a hit

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Indian hockey's fitness coach Sampath Kumar has come in for much praise from the team.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Gregory Allen King with the Indian cricket team, Kevin Jackson with East Bengal, but it's the very much Indian Sampath Kumar for the hockey team. The former national level athlete has come in for much praise as the fitness coach of the Indian team. Sandeep Michael may have gone down with jaundice, but that's hardly Sampath's fault. He's been doing his best to keep the Indian team fighting fight. And it's his contribution no doubt that keeps 35-year-old Dhanraj Pillay and the rest of his team in top form. "He has done a lot for us. When I joined the camp in 1989 my fitness level was poor. It is only because of him that I have improved," said Dhanraj. A national-level athlete from Tamil Nadu, Sampath has been associated with Indian hockey for the last eight years. He and Rajinder Singh were with the junior team that won the World Cup in Australia two years ago and now it's a successful partnership with the senior team as well. "Physically, we still lag behind in speed and agility as compared to the European standards. We still need to work on our speed, flexibility and on faster reflexes," said Kumar. Maintained team coach Rajinder Singh, "He understands the Indian players. And I feel that our physical trainer is the one of the best and we don't need any foreign help." It's clear the hockey team is happy with its Indian trainer.