NEW DELHI: Denial of visas has become a recurrent theme for Indian athletes seeking training or competitions abroad ever since the second wave of the Covid-19 struck. India's para-archers became the latest bunch to suffer that fate after the Czech Republic refused to issue visas to a six-member team and five officials. The squad were headed to Nove Mesto for the Para-Archery World Ranking Tournament And Final Paralympic Qualification event from July 3-10.
The event was set to be the final chance for two Indian para-archers -- Adil Mohamed Nazir Ansari (men W1) and Jyoti Baliyan (compound open) -- to qualify for the Paralympics.
Initially, the Archery Association of India (AAI) spoke to the Local Organising Committee (LOC) about the reduction in quarantine rules citing all archers having already received both doses of the Covishield vaccine. However, the LOC through World Archery informed that the Czech government had put India and Brazil on their red list, which meant visas would not be issued.
"We went to the sports ministry who tried through the External Affairs ministry but to no avail. We were ultimately forced to withdraw the team," a senior official informed TNIE.
The Sports Authority of India requested the Ministry of External Affairs' intervention in securing special permission from the Czech Republic's National Sports Agency and the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs but it did not work.
The mood inside the national camp for para archers in SAI Sonepat is sombre, to say the least. One of the archers said the team was constantly trying to track updates for the last couple of days and figured out something was wrong when tickets did not reach them on time. "We were supposed to fly out today (Friday). But we never got the tickets and we figured out there must be visa issues as we were hearing rumours of the same. Life has always been doubly difficult for us compared to other athletes, and now, not getting the chance to participate is a travesty. All of us are sad and as things stand, we do not see any addition to our Paralympics team," a para archer said.
The sports ministry, on their part, informed AAI that they should take the matter to World Archery and ask the world body to rescind the available quotas. "It may be recalled that back in February 2019, the International Olympic Committee decided to scrap two Olympic quota places out of the 16 that were to be available at the ISSF World Cup New Delhi because Indian visas were not made available to two 25m rapid fire pistol shooters from Pakistan," they cited this example in a statement they released.
AAI will have a core committee meeting to decide the next move. "We will try and take the help of other countries who have been affected or try and go through diplomatic means. Hopefully, a solution will present itself," the official informed while adding that Jyoti's case for a slot might not be over as she might just make the cut through the Bipartite Commission Invitation Allocation method for which the federation has to apply.
Vivek Chikara (recurve open), Harvinder Singh (recurve open), Shyam Sundar Swami (compound open), Rakesh Kumar (compound open) have so far made the cut for the Paralympics.