Uninspiring, below par, abysmal.
These three words sum up India’s lacklustre performance at the recently concluded Athletics World Championships in Doha.
It does not actually come as a surprise for followers of Indian athletics that out of the 43 countries who won medals at the gala event, India is not one. In fact, with a seventh-place finish and an eighth-place finish (India’s best result across all disciplines), India occupied the 58th position in the final placing table.
Could India have won a medal?
The last time the country won a medal at the World Championships was 16 years back, when Anju Bobby George won a bronze medal in Paris. That India is still waiting for a medal is a testament to the fact that the country is nowhere near world standards, at least when it comes to athletics.
Some would argue. If Neeraj Chopra had been fit, if Hima Das had been sprinting 400m at the top of her speed, if Tejaswin Shankar had taken part in Doha…maybe, India would have returned with a medal.
Some say that Neeraj could have even won the gold. Anderson Peters of Grenada, who with a throw of 86.89m won the gold medal at the World Championships, had finished third at CWG two spots behind Neeraj who bagged the gold.
But, in reality, no sport is so simple that one can simply extrapolate the results of one meet to another. And anyway, it’s all based on hypothesis.
The thing we should be debating about is what was the point of the lengthy foreign exposure trip? Crores of taxpayers’ money were spent, but to what avail?
However, no one stood up when it mattered, no one exceeded expectations.
Controversies before every meet – A boon or a bane?
Before every major meet, the athletics contingent is always plunged into needless controversies. Whether it is the Olympics, Asian Games, CWG or the World Championships, the Indian athletics team and federation always manage to stay in the limelight, mostly for the wrong reasons.
This time as well, the absences of Hima Das, Neeraj, Arokia Rajeev (among other top athletes), athletes competing in below-par competitions, missing national meets and what not caused unwarranted speculation.
The squad is already plagued by injuries, let them concentrate on their performance. Ostensibly otherwise, the results at any meet will reflect the abysmal record of the athletes on the world stage.
India had a couple of decent results. Steeplechaser Avinash Sable, with his impressive new national record mark, and the mixed 4x400m relay team booked Tokyo Olympics quotas while javelin thrower Annu Rani finished at a creditable 8th place. But other than there is nothing to draw positives from.
Athletics, as a sport, cannot be ignored. It is the blue-riband event of the Olympics. In general, it has one of the highest number of medal events.
Perhaps, it’s time for the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to introspect and work on a more result-oriented solution. If such trips and training under foreign experts are not yielding desirable results, then maybe it’s high time to rethink the entire structure.