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Indian athletes to miss World Relays due to visa issues

Indian athletes may also miss the Asian Grand Prix.

Indian athletes are set to miss the event due to visa issues

What's the story?

Visa issues have, of late, become a major obstacle for some of India's top athletes, denying them a chance to participate in elite events. The men's and women's 4x440m relay teams are all set to miss the prestigious IAAF World Relays that begins in Nassau, the Bahamas, on April 22 due to a delay in the process of granting transit visas by the American embassy.

The Indian contingent had applied for the same on April 7 right after procuring the Bahamas visa. However, they were informed recently that their biometric procedure has been scheduled for April 20 while the interview will follow a day later. This makes it impossible for them to attend an event that starts on Saturday.

“We had applied for the American transit visas on April 7, as soon as we got the visas from the Bahamas. We have now been told that the biometric procedure will be done on Thursday and the visa interview will happen on Friday,” an Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official told The Hindu.

In case you didn't know...

This is the third edition of the IAAF World Relays which started in 2014. Originally held annually, it is now a biennial event and has relay races, some of which are not included in the standard Olympic programme. The USA finished at the top of the table on both the previous occasions.

The heart of the matter

The World Relays is not the only tournament that Indians have to forego due to problems in securing a visa. India's top 400m specialists – Muhammad Anas and MR Poovamma – will also be a no-show at the Asian Grand Prix, the first and second legs of which will be held in Jinhua and Jiaxing in China on April 24 and April 27 respectively.

13 other athletes, as well as four coaches, have already got their visas but Anas and Poovamma are the only two Indians who have had to face these hassles.

Interestingly, the Chinese embassy has not declined their visas but has asked to withhold their passports for a month after which it has promised to grant the visa. Due to time constraints, it has not been possible for the athletes to keep their passports with the embassy for that long and the AFI has been forced not to send Anas and Poovamma to China.

Such an attitude from the Chinese embassy without specifying any reason is unprecedented as even the Indian race walking team was recently allowed to fly to the country without any complications.

The matter has been taken to the Honourable Minister of External Affairs of India, Sushma Swaraj.

What's next?

The Asian Games bronze medallist Poovamma and the men's 400m national record holder Anas will be able to attend only the third leg of the Asian Grand Prix that will be hosted by the Chinese Taipei on April 30.

Author's Take

With Anas and Poovamma being the only Indians to have sealed berths in the 400m discipline at the Asian Grand Prix, it is indeed a setback for Indian athletics. It is most desirable that politics is kept separated from sports and does not become the sole reason for dashing a hardworking athlete’s hopes.

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