GOLD COAST : AT the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Seema Antil (Punia now) threw better than Australia’s Dani Stevens. She won silver and threw two metres more than Dani. Twelve years later at the same stage, Stevens hurled the discus to 68.26m for a Games record, while Seema managed 60.41m. In between, Dani has won Worlds gold, silver and numerous other medals. Her efforts hovered around the 67-69m mark, while Seema’s were in the 60m region. A stark contrast indeed. One progressed, the other stagnated. The two know each other well. They even trained together. At the Carrara Athletics Stadium, when Dani and Seema met, they wished each other and said ‘let’s give our best’. Before Seema went for her last throw, she went up to Dani and congratulated her.
Dani, on the other hand, asked why she was congratulating her. “I told her to give her best,” said Dani. Such is the camaraderie. The only CWG Dani missed was in New Delhi, when she withdrew citing ‘health and security’ reasons. Seema missed none and won silver on all four occasions. She was quite frank. “Look at the way the government supports them,” she said. “Today when she came for the event, she had three-four support staff with her. She has a coach, a masseur, a psychologist. You name it, she has it. What do we have? I don’t even have a coach here with me.”
Seema trains with her husband Ankush. But he was not allowed to travel because the Athletics Federation of India exhausted its quota of officials accompanying athletes at the Games. And she did not have the money to fund his travel. “Whatever prize money I get, I utilise it for training. I am not even in the TOP scheme.” For a while, the 34-year-old discus thrower has been crying out for recognition. “Why am I not being given my due, I can’t understand. It’s cruel.” Her salary of `42,000 is not enough to buy shoes for training. She also said that if there is no coach, it becomes difficult as no one is there to guide you. “For Navjeet (Kaur Dhillon, bronze) I was there, but for me she can’t do that,” she said. “She also needs support. If she doesn’t get it, discus is finished.”
Though Seema won silver, she was not happy. “I had come here for gold, so I am not satisfied with my throw. I was doing 64.7 during practice.” Hopefully, the Asian Games will give her a chance to take a shot at redemption. If Seema’s first throw secured her medal, Navjeet managed a bronze in her last when she touched 57.43. The girl from Amritsar was languishing behind Australia’s Sositina Hakeai until then. The former junior World Championships medallist too felt support is what is missing in her sport. “I need sponsors. I approached a few organisations, but without results they usually don’t commit.” Her final throw came under pressure. “I was nervous when I went to the circle,” she confessed. “But the distance was within my range.”