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Athletes bear brunt of heat wave, AFI says hand forced by 'ridiculous' Asian Games diktat

The heat wave at the Inter-State Athletics Championships caused a few bleeding noses, throwing up and even compromised performances. But AFI says the scheduling was forced because of the upcoming Asian Games.

Athletes bear brunt of heat wave, AFI says hand forced by ridiculous Asian Games diktat

Priyanka Goswami was one of those who came up with a below-average performance in the gruelling conditions in Odisha. (AFI)


Abon Gooptu

Updated: 20 Jun 2023 12:17 PM GMT

The 62nd National Inter-State Athletics Championship from June 15 to June 19 saw as many as 70 athletes breach qualifying marks for the upcoming Asian Games, but they were achieved under unbearable weather conditions for some.

The Championship was hosted by Bhubaneswar, Odisha, a city battling a heat wave till Sunday. Soaring temperatures were consistently 40 degrees and higher along with humidity levels nearing 90 percent.

The demanding conditions led to some concerns raised about the health of competing athletes and the event's scheduling.

Heatwave compromises performances

The heat and humidity were so extreme that some of the elite athletes were getting physically and psychologically battered, and this reflected in their performances. This despite the fact that the Inter-State Athletics Championships were being considered as the selection trials for the Asian Games.

Decathlon gold winner Tejaswin Shankar was stranded in the 100m discipline with a timing of 11.22 seconds. It was later revealed that Shankar experienced a nose-bleed prior to the 100m dash. He stated, “Even before I started running, I was bleeding so that psychologically affected me. I don’t think I was extremely focused on the 100m.”

Shankar eventually regrouped and pulled through, amassing 7576 points. Athletes such as Shankar weren't shy of being vocal about the ground reality at the Kalinga Stadium.

The treacherous weather conditions especially worsened the woes of those participating in track disciplines.

Haryanvi steeplechase gold medalist Balkishan was seen retching after his race.

Priyanka Goswami’s 20km race-walk event saw her finish with a timing way below her national record of 1:28:45. Dehydrated and physically fatigued, Goswami pushed herself to the limits and clinched silver, with a timing of 1:40:33.

Goswami admitted that although similar weather conditions can be found in international competitions, since it was a matter of qualifying for the Asian Games, the athletes could have been prioritized.

“The weather drained me out. It’s not good at all, but I cannot complain about it. These are similar conditions when you go to Doha. But it could have been better because when you are keeping at it for the qualification, your country should think 100 per cent about the athletes on where they can do better. It’s a matter of qualifying," she said.

AFI President says hand forced

Responding to questions about whether the event could have been scheduled better, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) President Adille Sumariwalla reminded that their hands were forced by the need to formalise the Indian squad well before the upcoming Asian Games.

He said, “We had to change the dates because the Asian Games changed the dates. Normally the last date of entries is 15 days before the competition, but it’s 45 days before for the Asian championships and 75 days before for the Asian Games, which is never heard of. It’s ridiculous!”

The 62nd National Inter-State Athletics Championships was initially scheduled to take place in July at Ranchi. It was later shifted to Bhubaneswar and additionally, the dates were preponed to June as the Indian squads had to be finalised by July 15.

Sumariwalla additionally referred to international meets and national camps taking place in similar weather conditions.

“The Asian countries have their final trials now, whether it’s Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or the UAE. If the athletes don’t get accustomed to these conditions, how will they perform in the Asian championships in Bangkok in July?”

The Asian Championships is scheduled to take place from 12th July to 16th July in Pattaya, Thailand. The Asian Games are then set to be hosted by Hangzhou from 23rd September to 8th October.

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