Athletes on tighter leash

Only A standards will count for selection, says AFI

In a move which would reduce the number of the country’s participants in the Olympics, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has decided to limit the entry of track and field athletes in the quadrennial event to only those who qualify with the ‘A’ standard.

Participation in the track and field events in the Olympics and World Championships are through qualifications with ‘B’ and ‘A’ standards. ‘A’ standards are tougher to achieve and only six out the 14 track and field athletes who had taken part in London Olympics had achieved it.

India has not won a medal in track and field in its Olympic history and only seven athletes have made it to the final of their respective events.

The decision to limit the number of participants in the Olympics and World Championships was taken at the two-day Executive Committee meeting of the AFI, which concluded here on Sunday.

The committee reviewed the performance of the Indian track and field athletes in the London Olympics after studying the report submitted by national coach Bahadur Singh.

AFI president Adille Sumariwala said that national selectors will take a call in case an athlete crosses the ‘B’ standard and just misses the ‘A’ standard. “We are not going to send athletes who qualified with ‘B’ standard to the Olympics and World Championships any more. We will send only ‘A’ standard qualified athletes in these events in future. If an athlete narrowly misses ‘A’ standard, the selection committee will take a call,” Sumariwala said.

Discus throwers Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda, shot putter Om Prakash Karhana and three 20km race walkers -- K T Irfan, Gurmeet Singh and Baljinder Singh -- had achieved 'A' standard for the London Games while the other eight, including women 800M runner Tintu Luka, qualified with 'B' standard.

Charting out a road map for the next four years during which India aims to raise the bar in athletics, Sumariwala said even the 'A' standard qualifiers will have to maintain their level of performance and fitness and to test these a trial meet will be held just before the Olympics or World Championships.

"We had seen that some athletes who had qualified for London Olympics many months before the actual event and we did not know whether they were maintaining their level of performance or fitness. Finally, they came a cropper in the Olympics. We have to stop this," he said.

"It had happened in case of triple jumpers Renjith Maheswary and Mayookha Johny and marathoner Ram Singh Yadav. So, we have decided to hold a full-fledged trial meet like the United States or Jamaica conducts before Olym­pics. This will be a serious and full-fledged meet just like a National Open or a Grand Prix," he added.

The Executive Committee also decided to open a training centre in Pune for the 20km and 50km race walkers in collaboration with the Army Sports Institute there as the AFI thinks that India can be serious medal contender in these events.

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