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Asian Games

A flawed selection process for the Asian Games?

A flawed selection process for the Asian Games?

Akshat Mehrish

Published: 4 Aug 2018 4:59 AM GMT
The 2018 Asian Games are almost upon us. The pan-Asian multi-sport event will see some of the best athletes in Asia compete against one another to make their nations proud. The eighteenth edition of the Asiad will take place in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 5. Forty-five nations will be taking part in around forty sports disciplines with e-sports and canoe polo kept aside as demonstration sports. India being one of the strongest sporting nations in Asia has sent a strong contingent to Indonesia. The contingent which was initially announced comprised of Five Hundred and Twenty-Three members. However, that number is still in the midst of changes, as various cuts and additions have been announced since. For anyone to represent their nation in such a big event is a huge honour. As a result, when even after years of practice and performance, one's name doesn't show up on the official roster, there's bound to be resentment. It is that feeling of resentment, which has surrounded the Indian contingent ever since the official roster was announced. The Indian Olympic Association's biggest snub was to the
football teams
, as both Men and Women's teams were denied participation in the Asiad. The reasoning given behind this absurd decision didn't help IOA's case as well, as the Olympic body claimed that the teams will not be able to challenge for a podium finish. The football teams weren't the only ones to be snubbed for Asiad. Other sports and sportspersons received similar bad news. Although All India Football Federation decided against taking IOA to the court, others weren's as forgiving. https://twitter.com/g_rajaraman/status/1025215668977848320 Over the past month, various sportspersons filed a case contesting their snubs. In one case, an entire federation decided to take the matter to the court; shrouding Indian sports in further controversy.
Also read: Dear IOA, kindly get your act together

The Cases

1. Balaji Vijayshankar  The first sportsperson to take matters to the court was Balaji Vijayshankar as he filed a case against the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on July 9. Vijayshankar is an equestrian show-jumper and claimed bias against him, as he was overlooked for the 2018 Asian Games. The show-jumper and his entourage claimed that he had qualified for the Asiad in Luxembourg and held better scores than those selected in the official roster. The petitioner also claimed that he had conveyed it to Equestrian Federation of Indian in advance about the Luxembourg trials. However, later findings by the court indicated that the selection criteria was indeed not met by Vijayshankar, and the case was dismissed; and the pending application disposed of.
2. Samrah K Malaney 
Two days after Vijayshankar had filed a petition, another equestrian sportsperson filed one. Samrah K Malaney, a dressage participant was contesting about her absence from the official roster. This time, however, the petitioner had better luck as the case was upheld and Equestrian Federation of India was ordered by the court to hold trials. Nevertheless, the case was ultimately withdrawn after EFI's decision to not send a dressage team to Indonesia, at all. Also read: Equestrian team scrapped ahead of 2018 Jakarta Asian Games
3. Handball Federation On July 16, the Handball Federation of India filed a petition in the Lucknow High Court against the exclusion of the team from the official roster. HFI had filed a writ petition against the IOA on this instance. IOA's decision to exclude Handball from the roster was only bound to the Men's team. The Women's team was given the clearance. However, things got complicated when the Men's team figured in the draw for the tournament. The Federation also accused IOA of working under pressure from AIFF and ignoring other sports. Nevertheless, HFI finally got their way as the court upheld the petition and directed IOA to rethink the inclusion of the Men's team. The team was eventually cleared for the Asiad by IOA and will be taking part in the upcoming event but the selection in itself is riddled in controversy. Many accused a high official of the Handball Federation with ties to Asian Handball and the IOA for manipulating the draws and forcing a backdoor entry for the team. Furthermore, it was also alleged that the Pencak Silat team sufferred a severe cutback to just accomodate the men's handball team.
Also read:
Horse trading continues as Olympic Association now drops 20 names from Pencak Silat for Asian Games
4. Varsha Gautham Moving on to competitive Sailing; Varsha Gautham had taken her pleas to the court after she and her partner Sweta Shervegar were left out of the team. Gautham's grievances rose from the fact that sailor Ekta and her partner Shaila were selected for the Asiad; even though Gautham and Sweta had finished ahead of them at the Asian Sailing Championships. There was a victory for Gautham and her crewmate in this instance, as the Delhi High Court upheld her petition and ordered IOA to take fresh trials in Jakarta.
Also read:
Why does the Federation need to put a stopper on success | Varsha Gautham
5. Taekwondo  Five Taekwondo players took to the court to question their snub ahead of the 2018 Asian Games. Purva Dixit, Kashish Malik, Saurav, Navjeet Mann, and Akshay Kumar were the ones who had filed a petition. The sportspersons were further enraged by the fact that the official names for the Asiad were approved by the Federation even before the trials were held. The court listened to their grievances, albeit only partially. The final decision was left to the Secretary of Sports of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. There was relief later for three of them, as IOA was ordered to include Kashish Malik, Navjeet Mann, and Akshay Kumar in the final roster.
Also read:
The dark side of Indian Taekwondo
6. Abhay Singh and Traditional Boat race Fringe sports were hit the worst from IOA's contingent reveal. Another sport which was snubbed by the Olympic body was traditional boat. Abhay Singh, who has been taking part in this event, filed a petition against this decision. The petitioner cited favourable results at an Asian level tournament, where the Indian contingent won a silver and a bronze medal, as a good enough reason to be selected for the Asiad. The case went up to the Delhi High Court, where the petition was upheld and IOA ordered to "consider the case of the petitioner and take all steps to accredit the team to represent India in traditional boat racing."
7. Aparna Balan  Moving on to Badminton, doubles player Aparna Balan was left with a distaste after she was snubbed by the Federation for the 2018 Asian Games. Balan's grievances were shared by others as well, who claimed that the women's badminton team was imbalanced, which could prove to be fatal. Out of the ten selected, there were only two doubles pairs. In a scenario where one pair would have been unable to participate, India would have been left with just one pair. Balan and her supporters voiced their frustrations on Twitter, as the shuttler claimed that she has been a victim of bias over the years. However, the court did not hear Balan's pleas, as her case was dismissed on July 31 by the Kerala High court.
Also read:
I have been cheated by the Federation | Aparna Balan
8. Prachi Chaudhary and Chhavi Sherawat  The Prachi Chaudhary and Chhavi Sherawat case caused quite a stir when the two athletes decided to take Athletics Federation of India to the court. The petitioners' grievance in this particular case was the selection of athletes who had a worse timing over them. Prachi and Chhavi had finished in third and fourth positions during the tryouts in Guwahati. However, the federation decided to overlook them for the upcoming Asian Games over the pretence that they were not a part of the national camp. Further controversy erupted when the two athletes questioned the inclusion of twelfth-placed Vijaykumari, who they claimed was also not a part of the camp. AFI, however, later clarified that Vijaykumari was indeed a part of the camp and had been training with a national-camp coach in Bengaluru. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, with the hearing on August 2. However, there was no victory here for the athletes as their petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Also read:
Genuine reasons or foul play: Revealing the ongoing discrimination in Indian athletics
It was a genuine shock, seeing so many cases pop-up in courts regarding the selection process for the Asian Games. Whether the decision were in favor of the petitioners or not, one thing is clear- this whole ordeal has angered many people and attract questions towards the IOA and the federations' selection policies.
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