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AFI's squad for IAAF World Championships indicates strong bias towards athletes

Akash Bhatt
Modified 18 Dec 2019, 20:50 IST

Sudha Singh

What's the story?

The Athletics Federation of India is currently embroiled in controversy over the Indian contingent for the IAAF World Championship announced recently, with middle distance runner Chithra PU already having moved court against her exclusion.

With more reactions coming in, questions are being raised about the metric used for selection and also the inclusion of certain official members in the Indian contingent slated to travel to London.

Sources close to the AFI stated that the athletes were told that qualification to the World Championships with victory at the Asian Athletics Championships would be enough to make it to the Indian team. However, athletes like Sudha Singh, who have been denied entry due to their slow timings, have stated that they were assured that a gold in Bhubaneswar was enough and there was no further timing critieria.

In case you didn't know

The controversy erupted with the announcement of the selected athletes by the Selection Committee of AFI. The list comprised of 24 sportspersons and 13 accompanying officials and coaches.

The exclusion of three gold medallists from the recent Asian Athletics Championship, however, raised eyebrows. These were Sudha Singh (3000m Steeplechase), Ajay Kumar Saroj (Men's 1500 m) and Chitra PU (Women's 1500m). While AFI cited subpar performances, others have questioned these notable exclusions.

The heart of the matter

IAS officer from Odisha, Vishal Kumar Dev was named as the Team Leader, despite an AFI official already being part of the contingent as Team Manager.

Another surprising omission is Jayakumar, coach to three athletes - Anu Raghavan, Anilda Thomas and Mohd Anas - named in the squad. Ex-AFI officials have seen the inclusion of national coaches like Bahadur Singh and Radha Krishnan Nair, who are supervisors at national camps as baffling in light of players' coaches like Jayakumar not being included.

The selectors' theory of the criteria for getting picked being only the timing/distance recorded by the athletes seems suspect considering G Lakshmanan, another gold medallist at AAC has been selected despite also not meeting the qualification mark. Questions were raised also about Sachin Roby's selection for the 4x400 m event, as he had finished 7th in the 400m race at the Inter-State Meet at Guntur.

What's next?

Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala chief minister has already condemned the exclusion of Chitra in the squad, following which Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel has promised to look into the matter. Now, with many more people casting doubts on the selection of the Indian contingent, it can be assumed that the Sports Ministry will closely investigate the matter.


Author's Take

Considering the reactions to the squad announced by the AFI from all quarters, it seems there is enough reason for the grievances of Chitra and others to be looked into. The AFI should come clean on the questions raised by various stakeholders and clearly specify the metric used for inclusion and exclusion.

Published 26 Jul 2017, 14:30 IST
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