…Set house in order soon or Indian archers will compete under world body flag
The Indian archers run the risk of competing under a neutral World Archery (WA) banner if the de-recognised national federation of the country (AAI) fails to set its house in order soon, international body's secretary general Tom Dielen has warned.
Dielen said they were against punishing the archers but described the ongoing deadlock in AAI as a concern ahead of the upcoming Olympic qualification tournaments.
The 2019 World Archery Championships, slated in June next year, will offer 24 berths to the top eight teams in both men's and women's sections, while there will also be continental qualification tournament next year.
"The current status quo cannot continue indefinitely. At a certain moment we might have to decide that the athletes participate under a neutral World Archery banner. The matter of main concern is the upcoming Olympic qualification tournaments," the 50-year-old archer-turned-sports administrator told PTI in an interview from World Archery headquarters in Lausanne.
He further said the world body has been working towards having a functioning, recognised member association in India for quite some time.
"At this stage, we're still enthusiastic that a resolution can be reached but this must happen soon. It's our primary objective," Dielen said.
"If it does not happen, then further steps will be taken. But those steps will not be designed to punish athletes. However, it is a constitutional requirement that a well-governed member association is in place within a country," the secretary general said.
AAI was de-recognised by the Government of India in December 2012 for violating the Sports Code.
Last year in August, the Delhi High Court appointed former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi as the administrator to get the constitution drafted and hold fresh elections but nothing has been done yet.
India has not hosted any major archery competition and there were reports that the continental Olympic qualifiers -- the 2019 Asian Archery Championship -- which was slated in New Delhi has been shifted to Bangkok.
Without commenting on the reports, the World Archery secretary general said they would like India to host premier tournaments of the calendar like the World Cup Final.
"But that requires a functioning national governing body to be a reality," Dielen said.
Terming India a key market for the sport, he said: "It would be great to have an event, like the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final, in the country. Before that can happen, we need to make sure the proper governance is in place within the country."
The situation is so grave that it has impacted the performances of Indian archers, especially in the recurve section which has been on a decline since their stupendous show at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.
"Issues that impact the team organisation cannot be beneficial for the athletes," Dielen said as India are still in the pursuit of a first-ever Olympic medal.
"It is only a matter of time until India wins an Olympic archery medal. Winning an Olympic medal in archery is not easy, but Indian athletes are talented enough to achieve a podium finish. It is simply a case of performing at the right time."
He further cited the example of Mexico, who won their first Olympic archery medal in London 2012 with a silver and bronze in the women's event.
"Countries like France and Germany, which have close to 80,000 competitive archers each, have won three medals at the Olympics each. It is not that easy and it is not an exact science," Dielen said.
"Whenever a country wins an Olympic medal we see large increase in the popularity of archery. So, getting an Olympic podium would be very beneficial for archery in India.
"However, to fully take advantage of such an opportunity, the country needs a functioning, independent archery association," he reiterated.
There's no dearth of talent in India, he said, hailing four-time World Cup Final silver medallist Deepika Kumari, who will compete in the meet for an incredible seventh time.
"Archery is a sport of millimetres and winning at every single event is unrealistic. India has consistently produced podium finishers, but perhaps needs just another few millimetres at the right time to collect even more impressive results," Dielen said.
Compound archery is still to find a place in the Olympics, but Dielen pointed out that by making its entry in the Pan American Games, Asian Games and European Games as well as the World Games, the discipline has made significant progress.
"It's a huge step forward. There is no definitive timeline for inclusion in the Olympics. But World Archery has been continuously working to improve the competitive level, and promote the discipline to make it a more attractive proposition," he signed off.