Kerala CM seeks wild card entry for Chitra at Worlds
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Saturday requested the world body (IAAF) to consider P U Chitra's participation in the upcoming World Championships after Sports Minister Vijay Goel asked the national federation to honour the Kerala High Court directive.
The AFI said it had written to the IAAF and the ball is now in the international federation's court.
"We have formally written to IAAF to consider P U Chitra's entry as an Indian participation in women's 1500m race. It is now up to IAAF to accept the request or not," AFI secretary C K Valson said.
AFI's move came after Sports Minister Goel had earlier in the day advised the national federation to honour the Kerala High Court directive on Chitra to ensure her participation in the world meet.
The Kerala High Court, on Friday, directed the central government to ensure participation of Chitra in the World Athletics Championships in London next month.
Chitra, who recently won a gold medal in the women's 1500m event in the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar, filed the writ petition after she was excluded from the Indian squad by the federation.
In her plea, Chitra said her gold medal performance at the Asian Athletics Championships made her an automatic pick for the World Championships.
The court also observed that the selection process for the championship appears to be not transparent and qualified athletes were ignored.
The Asian Championships winners get an automatic berth for the World Championships but the global governing body IAAF's rules were clear that the national federation has within its powers not to send a continental event winner.
Interestingly, it is not clear what will happen in the cases of long distance runners Sudha Singh (women's 3000m steeplechase) and Ajay Kumar Saroj (men's 1500m) -- both of whom have qualified for the World Championships by winning gold in the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar.
Despite earning their spots, both the athletes have been dropped from the Indian squad. Unlike Chitra, the duo, however, did not take the legal route.
Sources, however, said that it will be difficult for the IAAF to grant a place to Chitra as deadline for the online entry of the athletes is already over.
"From our part, we can no longer access the password protected entry of the athletes as it has passed the deadline. We have to see what the IAAF does for only one country. I think it will be difficult for Chitra to get an entry," an athletics expert said.
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought a wild card entry for P U Chitra, to enable her to participate in the World Athletics Championships in London next month, and wanted Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel to intervene in the matter.
Commenting on media reports that the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had taken the stance that the athlete would not be able to compete in the event as the entry deadline was over, he said, "the AFI must use its discretionary powers to ensure her participation in the event".
"The stance of the federation is unacceptable. I believe another athlete (Dutee Chand) was handed wild card yesterday. So, the sports ministry has to intervene in the issue immediately and Chitra should also be granted a wild card entry," Vijayan said.
"The federation's decision needs to be altered and the sports minister should intervene in the matter immediately," Vijayan told reporters in Kozhikode.
Kerala Sports Minister A C Moideen visited the athlete's house at Mundoor in Palakkad and promised the backing of the state to enable her to reach greater heights.
Chitra said though the federation's decision had saddened her, it would not weaken her spirit.
She also wanted the Kerala government to provide a suitable job to enable her to pursue her sports career.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the central government should instruct the federation to include Chitra in the Indian team.
In an email sent to the sports minister, Chennithala said despite the direction of the Kerala High Court to include Chitra in the team, the federation was reluctant to implement it.
Image: PU Chitra