AFI to send only 'A' standard qualified athletes in Olympics
Times of India
Oct 2, 2012
NEW DELHI: In a move which would reduce the number of the country's participants in the Olympics, Athletics Federation of India has decided to limit the entry of track and field athletes in the quadrennial sporting 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 round 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 in an interview that the 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 in the Olympics and World Championships any more. We will send only 'A' standard qualified athletes in these events in future. If an athlete nearly misses 'A' standard, the selection committee will take a call in that case," Sumirawala said.
"We are not going to think Olympics or World Championships from the viewpoint of experimentation or giving exposure to as many athletes. These are top events and there is no point that a 'B' standard athlete is sent for just participation and giving exposure and finish last," he 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 Olympic Games. This will be a serious and full-fledged meet just like a National Open or a Grand Prix," he added.
He, however, said that a slight dip in the performance of the 'A' standard qualified athletes could be taken into consideration if there are satisfactory reasons which would be decided after taking inputs from the coaches.
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.
"We are going to give special attention to 20km and 50km race walking events. The walkers have done really well in London Olympics and we feel these are the events in which we can win medals in future Olympics. For that we have decided to open a training centre in Pune. We will tie up with the Army Sports Institute in Pune," said Sumariwala.
India had fielded three 20km race walkers and one in 50km in the London Olympics, with K T Irfan finishing a creditable 10th with a national record in the former event and Basanta Bahadur Rana also set a national record in the latter.
Sumariwala also said the AFI will send a recommendation to Sports Ministry to appoint a head coach to constantly monitor and evaluate the performance of athletes and coaches by analysing the data and inputs from various sources.
"The head coach will report to the national coach and he will have to be an expert data analyst by using modern information technology tools besides having understanding of technical knowledge in athletics. He will be a foreigner," Sumariwala said.
The AFI president said that athletes who have qualified for Olympics or World Championships will be sent to competition venue or a place of similar conditions for three or four months ahead of the event for acclimatisation.
He said that the federation will form a committee to work out a blueprint for the next four years to see how India can do better in the Olympics, Asian and Commonwealth Games.
"It will have all the coaches, Indian and foreign, officials and Olympians," he said.