Bizarre controversies leading up to any major tournament is nothing new and, indeed, it has been the case for Indian sportspeople in the days leading up to the Commonwealth Games. But perhaps the one National Sports Federation which seems to have been affected by it the most is the Athletics Federation of India. From missed entries to rumours about tiffs with the Commonwealth Games Federation (reports which were later clarified as false), the Athletics Federation of India finds itself in hot water again- This time because the right athletes do not find themselves in the lists for the right events as names seem mixed up in the official participants lists for athletes
The Athletics Federation Cup held in Patiala earlier in March gave us some very talented athletes which increased Indian medal prospects at the Gold Coast. The even had been set as one of the last opportunities for qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and, true to providing stiff competition, quite a few youngsters delivered remarkable performances. The two names which stood out at the end of the tournament were, in fact, junior level athletes – Hima Das and M Sreeshankar. Of these, the latter has already missed out on a chance at a CWG berth due to a delay in sending his entry. He was later diagnosed with appendicitis thus effectively ending his chances
If one remembers correctly, Hima Das had been widely touted as the next big thing among Indian sprinters after her astonishing debut in the senior circuit. Of the 31-member contingent which was selected for Gold Coast, she was the only athlete to have qualified for 3 events- the 200m, 400m and the 4x400m Relay team.
However, it looks like some botched execution on the Athletics Federation of India’s part may now see Hima unable to compete in the 200m discipline. The entry lists for participants in the 200m list do not seem to include her name.
It must be worth noting here that Hima’s forte is the 400m discipline. However, the fact cannot be discounted that she had originally been touted to participate in three events which have now been brought down to 2. Furthermore, it must be equally noted that she had pipped out veterans like MR Poovamma in her road to qualifying for the 400m sprint at the Patiala Federation Cup. Alongside Hima, Poovamma also finds a mention in the 400m participants list.
The series of botch-ups do not end there. Relay specialist Muhammed Anas has somehow ended up in the list of participants for individual 400m alongside his usual place in the 4x400m Relay team.
The provisions in place are quite simple when it comes to rectifying the mix-ups pertaining to Poovamma and Anas. Provisions are in place for the team management to withdraw the names of the two veterans should they see fit, a day before the actual event at the managers meet. The call would rest on the AFI representatives and the team management.
But what of Hima Das? If Hima actually wanted to compete in the 200m discipline, her name not appearing in the first list of participants would prove to be a major problem for AFI. Granted that she has been touted as an exceptional talent in the 400m discipline, her timings in 200m are quite competitive too. A relatively lesser chance of a medal in the discipline than in the quarter-mile race but a chance, nonetheless, was present.
She has been successively improving her timing in the 200m discipline at an astonishing progression. In the Bangkok Asian Youth Championships in May 2017, she clocked 24.52 seconds. Two months later in the Nairobi World Youth Championships, she finished with 24.31 seconds. The Asian Games test event in Feb 2018 saw her register a time of 23.59 seconds finally leading up to 23.37 seconds in the Federation Cup in Patiala.
The best timing recorded this year in the 200m sprint has been 22.83 seconds, by Brittany Brown of the USA and her steady progression makes this timing a realistic target.
How AFI chooses to solve this matter remains to be seen. For now, an official comment is awaited.