KOCHI: The controversy over the omission of middle-distance runner P U Chitra from the World Championship squad and subsequent legal intervention has finally brought about a positive change in Indian athletics. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has decided to announce qualifying standards for the 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games well in advance, a move the apex body felt would help to avoid controversy regarding team selection in the future.
The decision was taken during a two-day meeting of the AFI Planning Commission held in Patiala last week. “The selection of Indian athletics teams for Asian Games and Commonwealth Games 2018 will be the AFI qualifying standards which will be announced well in advance before each competition,” read a statement issued by the athletics body.
AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said: “We will give special attention to certain disciplines in which we have a good pool of talented athletes in both men and women categories such as javelin, 400m, 4x400m relay and long jump for these Games. Very shortly, we will announce qualifying standards for Asian Games and CWG 2018.”
The demand from the athletics fraternity for a proper qualifying mark has been there for long. But the necessity for such an arrangement was heavily felt in the run-up to the World Championships when Chitra, the Kerala athlete who had made the cut for the world event in 1500m thanks to her being the continental champ, was denied entry by the AFI saying her timing was pale when compared to the qualifying mark set by the international body (IAAF). The decision had caused a huge outcry and Chitra approached the Kerala High Court questioning the AFI move and the case is still pending.
Chitra, who is now in the national camp in Ooty, welcomed the decision. “An athlete can remain tension-free if he attains the qualifying mark set by the AFI. Then they need not worry whether they will be omitted at the last moment. If this decision was taken earlier, it would have benefited me,” she said.
The Kerala State Athletics Association secretary PI Babu, who was vocal about Chitra’s omission, said it was high time the AFI laid down the criteria for selection. “The athletes need to know what the criteria for selection is. If they are told that such and such performance will make them eligible for selection to the squad, they can go for that. The High Court had also pulled up the AFI for not setting proper criteria for selections,” he said.