India's World No. 2 javelin thrower Sundar Singh Gurjar misses out on Paralympic medal due to miscommunication
The small section of enthusiasts who follow Para-athletics in India would be more than familiar with the name Sundar Singh Gurjar. Considered one of the best para-athletes the nation has ever produced, the 24-year-old threw 68.42 m at the 2016 National Para-Atheltics Championship, almost 5 metres more than Devendra Jhajharia’s World record throw yesterday.
Due to the Paralympic Council of India (PCI) being dissolved by the Sports Ministry, the national championship was not an officially sanctioned Internationational Paralympic Committee (IPC) event. But the world number 2 was the front-runner to win gold at the event, but somehow inexplicably he didn’t even start.
Sportskeeda immediately contacted officials regarding the matter in Rio. The question was met with cluelessness and a certain extent of ignorance. Within the next 30 minutes, Devendra would go on to script history by becoming the country’s most successful athlete. But the question still remained: what happened to Sundar? After some probing, his brother revealed that Sundar had failed to report for roll call while he was practising in the training area. According to his family, Sundar’s inability to understand English led to the confusion.
His brother Sher Singh Khatana told Sportskeeda, “The Javelin athletes were warming up near the starting area as per protocol prior to the event. The rules states that the name of the athlete will be announced six times, before reporting. However, since my brother is a bit hard of hearing and doesn’t understand English, he didn’t know that his name was being called out.
“He was concentrating on his warm-up and was about 15-20 minutes late because of it. Upon seeing that no one was left from his group, he approached the registration desk. He was told that all first throws had been registered and due to his failure to report he had been disqualified from the event. My question is that all officials knew my brother was hard of hearing and didn’t know much of English, so why didn’t they tell him to report to the event? My gut feeling is that they weren’t even present there.”
A source close to the Paralympic Committee of India said that they were aware of the matter. He said, “It is very unfortunate that a potential gold medallist like Sundar missed out on the event. A thorough investigation will take place on the matter, to understand what actually went wrong. If an official was not present to inform Sundar, action will be taken accordingly.”
Heading into the event, Sundar was ranked second in the world owing to his throws at the Paralympic qualifier in Dubai. However, if his national level throws were taken into consideration, he would be far ahead of World No. 1 from China, Guo. In fact, Devendra himself was confident of a medal for Sundar. He said, “Both of us have competed against each other for the top spot for the last three years, I’m sure he would have won a medal and might have even beaten me actually. So even I was surprised that he didn’t turn up.
According to Sundar’s brother, Sher Singh, it was ignorance that caused this problem. He said, “If officials were aware of my brother’s problem why was he not specifically informed? My brother is very depressed, for the last two years he prepared for those 20 minutes. I request the Sports Ministry to investigate this matter.”
The Indian Paralympic contingent currently sits 31st on the medal tally with two gold, one silver and one brozne, but Sundar Singh’s absence from Rio is a serious embarrassment for India’s sporting administration.