We will take action against athletes who do not perform well — AFI President
The Athletics Federation of India said that they would be taking action against athletes who underperform at the Tokyo Olympics
The Athletics Federation of India on Friday threatened action against all those who do not perform well in the Olympics after deciding not to pull out long jumper M Sreeshankar and 20km race walker KT Irfan from the Games despite a dip in their form.
AFI's selection committee, in an emergency meeting, arrived at a "unanimous decision" to not pull the two athletes out of the 26-member squad. Despite the strong opinion from some members that both should be withdrawn after they underperformed in the trials in Bengaluru, the committee noted that the federation had called the trials to assess fitness and not form.
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said the coaches of both the athletes had been spoken to about their lacklustre form in the trials. "The coaches have promised that their respective athletes would give their best in Tokyo. Sreeshankar's father and coach have assured of good performance from his athlete. If athletes do not perform well in the Olympics, we will take action against them," he said, asserting that the message is meant for all those who are on the flight to Tokyo.
During a fitness trial held on Wednesday at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru, Sreeshankar's best jump was 7.48m, a far cry from the 8.26m he had come up during the Federation Cup in March to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Sreeshankar had pulled out of the National Inter-State Championships (June 25-29) just before his event after warming up on the field at the NIS Patiala. Sreeshankar's father S Murali, who is accompanying him to Tokyo as a coach, said he will do well in the Olympics. "He (Sreeshankar) will do well. There is not much of an issue," he simply said, when asked about Sreeshankar's dip in form.
Irfan, who underwent a fitness trial on July 9, was the first track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics way back in March 2019 during the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.
His last competition was during the National Race Walking Championships in March in Ranchi, where he did not finish the race. He had contracted COVID-19 in May and has recovered since then.
Sumariwalla said the selection committee recommended that there be a national championship ahead of all major events and that athletes would need to perform in that selection meet.
"The selectors were of the view that athletes, especially those who meet qualification standards early, need to compete in the final selection trial and show their performance," he said. A 44-member contingent, including 25 athletes, will leave for Tokyo from here this evening.
Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, along with his physio and coach, will arrive in Tokyo on July 26 from his training base in Sweden. Athletics events will be held from July 30 to August 8.