Equestrian national champion Gaurav Pundir pleads to save career
Gaurav Pundir, reigning national champion in the equestrian discipline of dressage, says he has 10 days to save his career and go to the Asian Games. He asks the government to save him from injustice at the hands of his federation.
National champion in the equestrian discipline of dressage, Gaurav Pundir, is currently wringing his hands in Europe, thinking that he has around ten days to save his career.
Having lost faith in the judicial process because of successive delays, he wrote a letter to the Union government on Monday, asking to rescue him from the injustice of having to miss out on the Asian Games due to personal issues with his federation.
According to Pundir, the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) has created hurdles for him at every step to keep him out of the Asian Games contingent because of personal history and age-old bias against lower ranks of the Army.
"We were all good friends once. Harish Khokhar, vice-president of the EFI, used to train under my father. But everything started changing when he started his own horse club. His son also competed in the same events as Chirag (Khandal) and me, maybe that's why he started resenting us. He couldn't digest that we were topping the national competitions, he wanted to push his own Army riders," Pundir told The Bridge from Lithuania, where he is continuing to train in hope that there will be a last-moment victory.
"The bitter truth is that Army officers cannot see Army jawans rising above them. They didn't even think I could afford to train in Europe on my expense," Pundir, the son of an Army jawan, said, comparing his case to Chirag Khandal's, the civilian who announced his retirement alleging similar bias last week.
In the email sent to the Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and IOA president PT Usha on Monday evening, Pundir said he will also have to retire from the sport if nothing is done about the bias against some riders by the EFI.
"Recently, one of the youngest and most brilliant riders, Chirag Khandal, has taken retirement from equestrian. On the same lines, I too am contemplating retirement. I am going through too much mental stress. My federation does not care about the mental health of its riders, all they are interested in is humiliating and insulting riders like me," his email said.
Pundir alleged that the EFI vice-president had earlier called him to his house and threatened him with action if he questioned the federation's decisions. He also alleged that at least two of the riders selected in the final Asian Games squad did not meet the qualification standards, which he had done twice - before and after the pandemic.
The Delhi high court in June this year ruled in Pundir's favour and instructed the EFI to assist him in completing all qualification norms for the Asian Games. But as the battle between the athlete and the federation continues, Pundir has now given up hope from the judicial system.
"Nobody seems to have time for sports and athletes. The next hearing for my case has been set for September 21. What will be the use even if I win? The Asian Games would already have started," Pundir said, as he now looks to the government as his last recourse.
Dressage is a form of horse riding as well as an art, sometimes where the horse's paces are set to music to create a competitive 'dance'. Gaurav Pundir is hoping his last dance will not be in distant Lithuania, training for an event which he will never take part in.