KOCHI: The selection trials to pick the 100 and 200m squads for the upcoming South Asian Games (SAG) turned out to be a farce as top athletes failed to turn up for the event, which was held at SAI-LNCPE, Thiruvananthapuram, on Sunday.
The trials were held for both men and women, but in the men’s category, all leading athletes, including national record holder in 200m Dharmbir Singh were absent, leading to allegations that athletes were not informed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) about the event.
The trials were held only in 100m, and those selected will be fielded in both the sprint events on the basis of recommendations from the foreign sprint coach, Dmitry Vinaykin.
Other notable senior athletes who didn’t take part in the event include Manikanda Raj (100m Open Nationals winner), Manikanda Arumugam (200m Open Nationals winner), Krishnakumar Rane (100m National Games winner), Anirudha Gujjar (100m former national champion), Jyoti Sankar Debnath and Amiya Kumar Mallick.
When contacted, a senior AFI official said that Raj, Arumugham, Gujjar and Debnath were included in the suggested list of athletes who were entitled to participate in the trials owing to their recent performances, but surprisingly, they failed to attend.
“We had informed them but they didn’t come. We will form the sprint teams on the basis of these trials. Because of the absence of the seniors, juniors took part in it. We think it’s high time that we gave juniors a chance because the SAG will give them exposure and they will be richer in experience by 2018. We want to groom them for the Asian Games and Commonweath Games to be held in 2018,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
But the athletes shot back, saying that they were kept in the dark by AFI and were thus robbed of their legitimate chance to represent the country at the SAG.
“We were never informed about the trials. We are now doing duty in respective departments because we were not included in the national camp. The reason given was we skipped the camp. Will anyone consciously skip the camp if it’s worth training there? We were never interested in going to the camp because our performances were not improving.
“In fact, it went down. Nobody asked why we left the camp. If they provide us a better coach, preferably Indian, we will rejoin,” said Manikanda Raj.
Manikanda Arumugham toed the same line and said he was totally unaware of the trials. National record holder Dharmbir also said he was not informed by the AFI about the trials.
Meanwhile, Rahul Kumar came first in the trials, clocking 10.91s, while Akshay Rohit and Adithya Var finished after him, at 10.92s and 10.93s, respectively.
In women’s 100m, Dutee Chand came first in 11.64s, while Srabani Nanda and Neethu Mathew finished second and third, at 11.86s and 12.01s, respectively.