CHENNAI: It’S not been a pleasant week as far as Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Games are concerned. First came news of the sports ministry asking the Indian Olympic Association to run detailed background checks on all athletes. Concerned that a few may try to overstay illegally, the under-secretary wrote a letter to the IOA general secretary on Monday. “In view of the disappearance of some officials/sportspersons in foreign countries in the past, this ministry is of the view that background/antecedents of the members/officials may be checked,” it stated.
A few days later, PV Sindhu, one of India’s brightest medal hopes, seemingly turned an ankle during one of her last training sessions before leaving for the Games (an X-ray declared her as okay). One day later, the official CWG website sent Indians into a tizzy after omitting Sushil Kumar from the list of competing athletes. It was revealed to be a clerical error. In between, Soumyajit Ghosh was suspended by the Table Tennis Federation of India after an 18-year-old girl levelled rape charges. The week ended with a possible doping scandal involving the boxing contingent.
There are reports that Australian anti-doping officials retrieved a syringe from near the room of Indian boxers. Considering all that has gone down in the last 150 hours or so, it may be easy to arrive at the conclusion that the contingent may actually be down. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. Most athletes are looking ahead to two weeks that might change their lives for the better. Arokia Rajiv, part of the 4x400m team, has been so driven since touching down at Gold Coast he isn’t even aware of half of the episodes.
He is so focussed, even his replies on WhatsApp read like morse code. “Mood is good, only time for practice (so haven’t done any sightseeing yet),” he told Express. There is added incentive for the 4x400 men. They were disqualified in Rio and Rajiv has that in mind when he says the test is tough. “Tough but we have chance. Lots of competition, no set target.” Not all athletes have been confined to the Village. A few have hit the beach. Two high profile ones — high-jumper Tejaswin Shankar and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra (both gold medal prospects) hit the coast to recover.
“Wonderful to relax at the beach with these two fine gentlemen (Neeraj and rehab specialist Wayne Lombard),” Shankar had tweeted on Sunday. “2018 ki preparation zor se shuru hai par acchi recovery bhi toh zaroori hai (preparation is on in full swing but we need time to recover)...” But the Games isn’t just about focusing on well known names. It also gives a platform for foot soldiers to meet some of famous sons and daughters of the country. Akilan Pari, a vital cog in the men’s basketball team, was starstruck as he saw MC Mary Kom and Jitu Rai.
“The former kind of just told the team best of luck while I met the latter in a lift. It was a life-lifting experience for me... just meeting them in the flesh. Hopefully I get inspired by their words.” In the last CWG held in Australia, in Melbourne in 2006, A Sharath Kamal had won two gold (singles and men’s team) medals. The table tennis contingent landed on Saturday and have had a couple of sessions. The 35-year-old has set sights on a similar haul. “We just came in yesterday (Saturday), so no beach yet,” he said. “(We) won it here in 2006 and it looks like we are going to win the gold again. We look forward to gold in teams and men’s doubles. Singles is always open. Hopefully, I stay fit.”