KOCHI: In a contentious move, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has omitted all the top athletes, who are training outside the national camps, from participating in the test events of the 18th Asian Games to begin in Jakarta from Sunday.
The AFI has sent a 30-member squad for the competition that is envisaged to test the readiness of the venues. However, all the top athletes who are training with their individual coaches outside the purview of the national camps have been deprived of a chance to gauge the conditions well prior to the Games that will be held in August.
India’s top quarter-milers like Muhammed Anas (in pic), Arokia Rajiv, MR Poovamma and Anilda Thomas were some of the leading athletes who were not taken onboard due to them training outside the national camps. The AFI had made it clear during their last Annual General Body Meeting (AGM) that only the campers will be considered for selections to international competition — a move that was decried by a section of athletes and coaches as biased and undemocratic. Barring one athlete, the rest are all campers. Long jumper M Sreeshankar’s inclusion was based on his last season’s performance in the junior circuit, said deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair.
“All the athletes who are in the team are from the camps. Sreeshankar is an exception because when the campers’ list was made, he was not considered. But based on his rankings and performance thereafter, we included him in the side,” Nair said. Nair reckoned that the test events offer a good chance for the athletes to test their preparation as well as get in touch with the conditions prior to the real competition. However, he refused to comment why the non-campers were excluded.
A leading women’s 400m runner said the move was done with an intention to browbeat the athletes who are training outside the AFI system. “Another issue is that we are deprived of a chance to attain the qualifying marks for the Commonwealth Games. The AFI have made it clear that the performance in the test events will be considered for selection to the CWG,” she said.