Gary Cablayan, who also trains NFL stars at his base in America, has been training Siddhanth Thingalaya, the Indian hurdler, for nearly two years and now, Siddhanth is experiencing the best phase of his career.

STAN RAYAN | KOCHI

Siddhanth Thingalaya may not be very comfortable with the rules of the NFL but he has picked up a few things about American football. That is because the sprint hurdler’s coach Gary Cablayan also trains NFL stars at his American base, the Evo Track Club at Long Beach.

“NFL…that’s what he is known for, though he was a hurdler himself,” said Thingalaya, the national 110m record holder, in a chat with Sportstar from Long Beach, California, on Tuesday. “I’m still learning the rules but NFL is better than cricket, it’s more athletic and a very powerful game.”

Cablayan, a 400m hurdler earlier, has his own take on the NFL and athletics mix. “I prefer track, but the NFL has more money,” he said.

Tough Phase

Thingalaya now gets to rub shoulders with NFL stars like DeSean Jackson but two years ago, shortly after the Asian Games in Incheon, the Mumbai youngster felt many doors closing on him.

With steel major JSW as his sponsor then, he trained under reputed UCLA coach Darrell Smith and had former World Championship silver medallist Ryan Wilson as his hurdling partner.

“But after the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, JSW did not renew my contract saying that I had no improvement as I had only equalled my national record that year,” said Thingalaya, an ONGC employee.

No sponsor, no TOPS funding

Without a sponsor and with no Government funding since he did not come under the Centre’s TOP Scheme which supported Olympic hopefuls, Thingalaya left the US and went back home to Mumbai.

“I was worried. When my mom came, she saw me really down and booked me a flight to the US, to train with Darrell,” said the 25-year-old who is now supported by his parents, Umananda Thingalaya and Shaila, both bank employees.

But that was not enough. He was worried about the coach’s fees, rent and food expenses. And that was when he found Cablayan. “I had a close friend in Los Angeles and he told me about this coach, who used to be a hurdler, and said that his friend trained with him. And his friend was NFL’s DeSean Jackson,” said Thingalaya who also holds the indoor national record.

“I like Gary as I share a good tuning with him, more than a coach, he’s a friend so it’s fun to train,” he said.

Siddhanth has been training with Cablayan for nearly two years and now, he is experiencing the best phase of his career.

Getting closer to Rio

A couple of days ago, he broke his own national record at Arizona, his second in a month, bringing it down from 13.59s to 13.54.