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AFI threatens action on under-performers at Olympics

July 23, 2021 20:01 IST

Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar

IMAGE: During a fitness trial on Wednesday, at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru, long jumper Murali Sreeshankar's best jump was 7.48m, a far cry from the 8.26m he achieved during the Federation Cup in March to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Photograph: Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF

The Athletics Federation of India has threatened action against all those who do not perform well in the Olympics after deciding not to withdraw long jumper Murali Sreeshankar and 20km race walker KT Irfan from the Tokyo Games despite a dip in their form.


AFI's selection committee, in an emergency meeting on Friday, arrived at a "unanimous decision" to not pull the two athletes out of the 26-member squad.

Despite strong opinion from some members that both should be withdrawn after they under-performed in the trials in Bengaluru, the committee noted that the federation had called the trials to assess fitness and not form.

AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said the coaches of both the athletes had been spoken to about their lacklustre form in the trials.

"The coaches have promised that their respective athletes would give their best in Tokyo. Sreeshankar's father and coach have assured of good performance from his athlete.

"If athletes do not perform well in the Olympics, we will take action against them," he said, asserting that the message is meant for all those who are on the flight to Tokyo.

During a fitness trial held on Wednesday at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru, Sreeshankar's best jump was 7.48m, a far cry from the 8.26m he had come up during the Federation Cup in March to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sreeshankar had pulled out of the National Inter-State Championships (June 25-29) just before his event after warming up on the field at the NIS Patiala.

Sreeshankar's father S Murali, who is accompanying him to Tokyo as coach, said his son will do well in the Olympics.

"He (Sreeshankar) will do well. There is not much of an issue," he simply said, when asked about Sreeshankar's dip in form.

Irfan, who underwent a fitness trial on July 9, was the first track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics way back in March 2019 during the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan.

His last competition was during the National Race Walking Championships in March in Ranchi, where he did not finish the race. He had contracted COVID-19 in May and has recovered since then.

Sumariwalla said the selection committee recommended that there be a National championship ahead of all major events and that athletes would need to perform in that selection meet.

"The selectors were of the view that athletes, especially those who meet qualification standards early, need to compete in the final selection trial and show their performance," he said.

The first batch of the 28-member contingent, including 18 athletes, left for Tokyo this evening.

Dutee Chand (100m and 200m), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put), Kamalpreet Kaur (discus throw), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), Sreeshankar and the men's 4x400m relay and mixed 4x400 relay team members were among the 18 athletes who left for Tokyo on Friday.

Another women's discus thrower Seema Punia and her coach will head for Tokyo on Sunday.

Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, along with his physio and coach, will arrive in Tokyo on July 26 from his training base in Sweden.

Three support staff members, including javelin coach Uwe Hohn will leave for Tokyo on July 29 while the 11-member race walk group, including six athletes, will fly out on July 30 for Sapporo, where the marathon and race walk events will be held.   

Athletics events will be held from July 30 to August 8.

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