Australian citizen John Gloster has worked with the Indian Cricket Team and Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals over the past eight years. He has been associated with the physiotherapy side of sports for the last 24 years and is also the Head of Sports Science at GoSports Foundation.
He got the opportunity to conduct a recce of theTokyo Olympic venues in 2019. Here are excerpts from an interview conducted by Sportskeeda:
1. You traveled to Tokyo to conduct a recce of the Olympic venues. How was your experience regarding this?
In 2019, I spent some time recceing the Olympic venues, facilities, and systems in place before the initially scheduled commencement of the Olympics. It was an experience that reinforced my belief in Japan’s ability to conduct an event of this magnitude while ensuring that the necessary standards of safety and security are maintained.
Multiple athletes have had the experience of operating within specified bio-bubbles and I believe months of practice have made them rather good at it. While the bio-bubbles do not guarantee absolute security, the Japanese are very meticulous and system-driven in their approach.
The safety of the visiting athletes and their teams as well as the Japanese citizens and all other relevant stakeholders is the responsibility of the organizers and I am confident that they have taken all the requisite measures. The other most important part of the visit was to ensure the availability of and access to good quality Indian foods.
Equally important was the compilation of a document of ‘soft skills’ required to navigate one’s way through Indian culture and daily life with greater ease and minimal embarrassment.
2. What do you think will be the major differences in this year’s Olympics, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, as compared to previous editions?
The existence of bio-bubbles is a major difference when compared to previous editions of the Olympics. The organizers must make serious considerations regarding the accommodation offered. They must ensure the availability of all items necessary to facilitate the mental and physical conditioning of the residing athletes.
There are a lot of activities such as stepping out for meals or movies that are now off-limits given the restriction of the bubbles and hence efforts must be made to provide these facilities within the safety of the bubble. The mental health of athletes in a bio bubble is a serious consideration for organizers.
I expect that individual delegations as well as the IOC itself will ensure that there are both internal and external (virtual) support systems to manage any mental health issues that may arise. The disruption caused by the pandemic to sporting events last year has permitted athletes to focus particularly on the mental aspect of sports and develop mental fortitude and resilience.
A truly glaring difference as compared to the previous editions of the Olympics is the absence of crowds. I believe that this might help some of our Indian athletes given many of them are accustomed to competing in stadiums with little or no spectators.
3. You received the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2019 award. Could you tell us more about it?
The bestowment of the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar to GoSports Foundation in 2019 was a priceless testament to the meaningful work done across many years by the organization in the Indian sporting landscape. I have had the opportunity to be closely associated with GoSports Foundation as their Head of Sports Science for many years now.
My designation involves supporting athletes in the allied health field. Without the assistance offered by the foundation, access to intervention and support in the allied health field would be extremely difficult to obtain.
I have been actively responsible for the creation of a structured, pan-India network that has enabled support for the athletes in all the relevant disciplines such as sports psychology, nutrition, orthopedics, and imaging.
I have also made efforts from a policy perspective to build a platform of education around the foundation. The sports system in India is rather fragmented, particularly in the lesser known and less popular sports, and this often affects athletes adversely. Through the foundation, our goal is to spread the agenda of supporting athletes and bridging the gap across a larger pan-India scale.
4. A couple of Tokyo-bound Olympians have been a part of GoSports Foundation’s Athlete Programmes in the past like Anjum Moudgil (Shooting), Bhavani Devi (Fencing), G Sathiyan (Table Tennis), Muhammad Anas (Athletics), B Sai Praneeth (Badminton), Sajan Prakash (Swimming). Can you tell us your experience with them?
It has been a tremendous experience working with top athletes from diverse sports who are currently a part of GoSport Foundation’s Athlete Programmes. Insightful interactions with these athletes have helped us identify each of their primary challenges and work on them actively.
An area that has received a significant amount of our attention is athlete nutrition. A nutrition plan is often followed by a supplementation plan, thus making the education and awareness of athletes regarding anti-doping regulations imperative.
With respect to expectations about the performance of our contingent, not so long ago I felt that the performances in the upcoming Olympics would perhaps not be as good as previous games. However, at this point, I have shifted my thoughts on this.
One of the first things I said to our GoSports Foundation athletes upon the onset of COVID-19 was that this was the best opportunity for them to focus on the other side of their games, the mental side. I think the opportunity to work on the mental side of the game during the last 15 months of Covid has allowed athletes to become more resilient and thus possibly produce improved performances.
5. Australia has won a total of 64 Olympic medals in the last two Summer Games. India, on the other hand, has only won 8. What do you think is India lacking?
I think one of the primary reasons is that sports science is still a rather loosely defined term in India. It is not as recognized in this country as it is in Australia.
Sports science in the simplest sense refers to leveraging knowledge and scientific research to help an individual in the sports arena. This includes learning through various disciplines and applying the knowledge in performance, training, recovery, data analytics, medical support, and nutritional support.
Sports science is an umbrella term and sitting under the umbrella, are all these components that can contribute positively to the success of an athlete. An underrated factor is the importance of a coach in a healthy sporting ecosystem.
It is essential that sports scientists develop amicable equations with the coaches of athletes and work in tandem with them in order to truly bring about positive change. While there is still a long way to go, the application of sports science is steadily growing across the nation.
Aspects such as nutrition and mental training that were once not given their due importance are now being actively engaged to meaningfully impact athletes.
A positive outcome I have come to notice is that lately, more and more athletes are comfortable discussing their mental health, an extremely important component greatly highlighted by the complications imposed by the onset of COVID-19.