What's the story?
Indian para powerlifter Sakina Khatun, who qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics in the up to 41kg category is currently facing issues to fund for her preparations ahead of the global event and has cited the absence of government support for the same.
In case you didn't know
In 2018, she created history by being the first-ever Indian women para-athlete to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games. The silver medallist at the 2018 Asian Para Games, also won a Gold at the Tokyo Paralympics Test event and finished 6th at the 2019 World championships.
As per SAI's criteria, an athlete must participate in the Paralympics to be offered a job as a coach in SAI's centres. As Sakina has not participated in the quadrennial event as yet, she does not fall under the category to get a permanent job at SAI.
Heart of the matter
It is understood that Sakina has been constantly writing to the Sports Authority of India and the Sports Ministry in a request to include her name in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and provide her with a job as a coach in SAI's training and regional centre.
Writing to the SAI headquarters in Delhi, she said,
"I hail from a poor family and am currently unemployed. I have always tried to perform my best despite all these hardships. At present, I am facing a severe financial crunch which is affecting my training for the Tokyo Olympics. Considering my achievements, I kindly request you to include my name in the TOPS."
Despite her credible performances, the lack of funds is acting as a barrier for the polio survivor over her participation in the upcoming Tokyo Qualifying meet in Thailand. Notably, to be eligible for TOPS, the probability for an athlete to win a Tokyo 2020 Paralympics medal is taken into consideration by MOC.
On Sakina's request to be included in the TOPS, SAI responded and said -
"Sakina's performance was reviewed by the Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), where she currently ranks 6th (fifth as per the latest rankings) in the Tokyo 2020 qualification rankings for powerlifting with the best lift of 86kg in the under 45kg weight category for women.
"The minimum medal range in her event is around 94kg. It was deemed by the MOC that she did not meet the medal criteria for TOPS presently in her event and was therefore not included in TOPS."
As per the present TOPS list, 130 para-athletes from the track and field category are included, and not even a single powerlifter is included in the list.
Sakina questioned SAI's motive to consider only potential medal winners -
"Are all 130 athletes covered under the TOPS going to win medals? If this scheme is supporting them in their training, why deny me?"
Sakina has put up various credible performances for the country and it is sad to see that despite having qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics, her dream of winning an Olympic medal for the country lies in doubt.Published 13 Feb 2020, 15:16 IST