Unpredictability and uncertainty in sports give life to rivalries and turn them into something more intense. Talent may be permanent but form varies. Skill alone doesn’t determine champions. There is temperament, motivation, determination, mental strength ... all weaved into the fabric of success. Past heroics don’t usually determine champions either. For every Olympics, star swimmer Michael Phelps had to qualify through trials. In the US there are fixed rules for every athlete, who follow them too. They also top the Olympics medals tally. The competition is so intense, even Phelps sometimes had to make way for swimmers younger to him. Most of the sporting powerhouses follow the same principles.
In India, because of a lack of Olympic stars, federations are held at ransom by Olympic medallists in sports like boxing and wrestling. Sushil Kumar is a legend no doubt. But the way his trials was handled did reflect poorly on the federation and the athlete himself. Why is it that every time there are trials, it’s Sushil who finds himself in trouble? Is it not intrinsic to the functioning of the federation? Where endurance and strength are the ingredients that decide champions, 36 years is not an ideal age to compete in wrestling.
On Tuesday during the trials against the younger Jitender Kumar, he looked vulnerable after the first two minutes. Whether out of fatigue or out of some sinister design, he seems to have hurt Jitender. The bout was replete with medical time-outs and looked ugly.
The same is the case with another legendary sportsperson’s trials. It is just not acceptable that the Boxing Federation of India allowed Mary Kom to not compete in trials for the World Championships. What is troubling is she believes that sportspersons who have been performing well should be exempted from trials. She is already 36, and age is definitely not with her. It is always heartening to see athletes retire with dignity. It is good if they help juniors out. But sadly in our country, these are the juniors who the seniors want to sideline. Something not desirable at all.