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Indian sports and controversies are like bread and butter. For years now, sports in the country has been in turmoil. There has been progress, yes. But the progress has been usually marred by controversies. Another such controversy arose when the Athletics Federation of India selected their 4x400m team. The team was to go and represent India in Jakarta, for the 2018 Asian Games. The official result sheet for the 400mt event at the National Inter-State. Prachi and Chhavi Sharawat, two Uttar Pradesh based sprinters finished third and fourth respectively at the Inter State Championship in Guwahati. The Championship was serving as the selection trial for the upcoming Asian Games. Controversy struck when AFI overlooked the two UP-based sprinters and selected those who finished in a worse position. In order to retaliate against AFI's decision, the two sprinters have decided to sit on an indefinite hunger strike. Talking to The Bridge and explaining the situation was Saurabh, a sports activist helping these two girls get justice. "The whole controversy arose around those two girls- Prachi and Chhavi. Prachi was ranked third and Chhavi was ranked fourth during the Asian Games selection tryouts. Now technically, completely based on their ranks they both should be selected for the 4x400 team for the Asian Games." "However, instead of these two, the federation has decided to select the girls who finished sixth, seventh, eight, and even eleventh!" said Saurabh.
Controversy struck when AFI overlooked the two UP-based sprinters and selected those who finished in a worse position. In order to retaliate against AFI's decision, the two sprinters have decided to sit on an indefinite hunger strike.
Non-camper selected in Asian Games team as reserve.Vijaykumari, the girl who finished eleventh was selected for the team as a reserve. This selection drew criticism, with the revelation that Vijaykumari hadn't even qualified for the final, which took place in Guwahati. "Usually, only the top eight athletes reach the final. So how can someone who finished eleventh reach the final? On what grounds has she been selected?" questioned the sports activist. Looking for answers, Prachi and Chhavi's entourage, including Saurabh went to the Federation. However, the answers they were seeking weren't given to them. Instead, they were further made sure that foul play was involved in this whole situation. "Obviously we took the matter to the Federation. However, what they said to us that the two runners (Prachi and Chhavi) were not a part of the national camp. Hence, they are not selected."
"However, Vijaykumari, who got selected after finishing eleventh was also not a part of the camp. So how does she get selected? To that, they had no logical explanation. What the federation said regarding Vijaykumari is that even though we will take her, she probably won't participate. So now we are questioning why to take her at all?" Saurabh told the Bridge. A similar dispute had arisen a while back when the two sprinters were once again overlooked after their good performances in the hurdles event. "This was the first thing. The second issue was regarding the hurdles team. When the selection was taking place, Prachi was ranked first and Chhavi second. This clearly shows that both the runners have excellent merit. But once again, they were overlooked." Since last year's World Championships, quartermiler Nirmala Sheoran has not run a competitive race and her whereabouts and training place were unknown. She was granted exemption from the Selection trials and already qualified for the Asian Games. (Image: PTI) "Once again, the same argument was given- that you were not a part of the national camp," Saurabh explained. "The athletes are staging a hunger strike for now. We will also try approaching through other means, especially once the Parliament is back in session. We have also tried to approach the sports minister but he was unavailable," the sports activist explains.
"Usually, only the top eight athletes reach the final. So how can someone who finished eleventh reach the final? On what grounds has she been selected?" questioned the sports activist.
Inadequate Camps?This is not the first time Saurabh has received such cases. He tells that such discrimination has happened in the past as well. To that effect, the sports activist questions why the discrimination towards non-camp athletes, even though they are working towards the same goal. "I want to ask why create the whole issue regarding the camp? During the Commonwealth, a lot of medals were brought back home by non-campers. So why are you creating such a big deal regarding the camp? A lot of capital is being put into these camps and still, there are little results to show. So why create this barrier for non-campers?" "I would like to see an end to this whole camp, non-camp discrimination. What the federation says is that doping takes place outside the camp. But the fact is, doping has taken place inside the camp as well." Saurabh says. Also read: Do the IAAF’s new regulations for female athletes present a bias of sorts? The reason for a lot of athletes skipping camp is simple. They claim that even after so much investment, the camps are just not good enough. Bad food, bad training, and other medical issues are quite common in these camps and as a result, athletes tend to train on their own. "A lot of athletes have given a negative testimony regarding the camps previously. They all come to me and tell about how bad the quality of food is inside the camp, how bad the training facilities are in the camp. Why would anyone like to stay inside the camp in that case? There are other medical issues as well," Saurabh says.
The sports activist is continuously fighting this discrimination, all the while hoping that the situation improves, for the sake of sports in India. "We dream of becoming a world-class sporting nation but our camps are not even up to the mark. How will we achieve this dream then?"
The reason for a lot of athletes skipping camp is simple. They claim that even after so much investment, the camps are just not good enough.
Two sides to the story?However, there is always another side to the story, as it is here. The whole controversy is being played out on the basis of camp and non-camp selections. Vijaykumari was accused of being a non-camper by the two sprinters and their entourage. However, according to Athletics Federation of India, Vijaykumari is indeed a part of national camp. She is training with a personal coach in Bengaluru for the meantime, who AFI clarifies is a part of camp as well. https://twitter.com/afiindia/status/1014124062455590913 As per the rules, all the non-campers will not be entertained for the 2018 Asian Games squad. Due to the fact that better performing athletes were not a part of the national camps, Vijaykumari becomes a de facto member of the Asian Games squad. If that is true, the whole situation regarding the three sprinters comes in a new light. Prachi and Chhavi are claiming foul play while AFI says that Vijaykumari is in the squad by proper means. Hopefully, this situation will resolve quickly as Asian Games are right around the corner.