Indian taekwondo players' Olympic dream almost fades amid travel ban, seek sports minister's help
The Sports Ministry in tandem with the Ministry of External Affairs should try to help by speaking to the Ministry of Jordan and allow the taekwondo players to travel to Jordan to take part
The Indian taekwondo team that is raring to take part in the Asian Taekwondo Qualifiers, has been training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Lucknow campus. The tournament which will be held from May 19 to 23 at Amman, Jordan is the last event from where the winner and runner-up athletes in each division will qualify for Tokyo Olympics. While many notable taekwondo athletes have already qualified for the Games, this tournament gives some lesser-known athletes to punch their ticket to Tokyo.
While taekwondo players were hoping to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, there dreams got dented without their faults. The taekwondo federation in Jordan has imposed restrictions on Indian players following the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, as per their government's directive. The federation has asked Indian players to arrive Jordan in transit from another country where they could be have had 14 day quarantine.
After plenty of infighting, the selection trials for the national Taekwondo squad which will take part in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers was conducted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) instead of SAI. The decision was taken to ensure a free and transparent selection trial since Taekwondo Federation of India is not a recognised National Sporting Federation (NSF). The were held on 17 April with 16 players in different weight categories. However, four players — Kashish Malik (57 kg) and Margerette Regi (+67kg) among women; Navjeet Singh Mann (80kg) and Akshay Hooda (68 kg) among men — were selected to participate only on May 7.
The players had to reach Jordan by May 19, which wouldn't have allowed them to seek 14-day quarantine in a foreign country, when actually just 12 days were left after selection. Now, with just three days left for the Asian Qualifiers to start, the entire Indian team is in doubt of participation and gives a shot at their Olympics dream. No Indian taekwondo player has ever qualified for an Olympics.
Taekwondo was first a demonstration sport at Seoul 1988, and has been a mdeal sport at every Games since Sydney 2000.
To qualify, India's hopefuls will need to finish in the top two of their weight category at the Asian Olympic qualification tournament.
Many taekwondo players and organisations have sought petitions requesting Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to arrange diplomatic methods to help the Taekwondo players to reach Jordan. Many other sports have seen similar ordeal owing to the COVID restrictions imposed on Indian athletes. The taekwondo players have prepared for the last four years to fulfill their Olympic goals. The Asian Qualifiers being the gateway for the Olympics, the players have no hopes left who wasn't at fault at all.
The Sports Ministry in tandem with the Ministry of External Affairs should try to help by speaking to the Ministry of Jordan and allow the taekwondo players to travel to Jordan to take part.