Nine of the 19 Indian athletes, including Olympic semifinalist Tintu Luka, invited for the Asian Amateur Athletics Grand Prix series in Thailand and Sri Lanka, will not be competing, mainly owing to the tough stand of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

The Chairman of the selection committee, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, said that the AFI had its own criteria and did not wish to go by the reputation of the athletes. He said that not much importance was paid to the invited names, and the choice was made based on current performance.

Actually, the organisers of the Grand Prix had extended invitations to the Indian athletes mainly based on their performance last season and their national ranking, etc. However, the AFI had decided that only athletes who competed in the Federation Cup in Patiala would be considered for the Asian Grand Prix series.

“For the athletes who have got the invitation, the organisers will provide the flight tickets, board, lodging etc. For the athletes who do not figure in the invitation list, but whose entries have been accepted, the government would bear the cost,” clarified the secretary-general of the AFI, C.K. Valson.

Though Valson said that the 800m runner Tintu Luka, who had originally planned to compete in the Federation Cup, would be running in the much superior Diamond League on May 18 in Shanghai, Randhawa was categorical that the athletes should not be deciding about their selection, especially with regard to the Asian circuit.

Sinimole Paulose was selected by the AFI for the 800m in the Asian Grand Prix, but she could not make the team eventually owing to illness. The AFI decided not to select a replacement for her, or for that matter Mayookha Johny. Long jumper Mayookha, who has not been in good form, opted to train at home rather than compete in the Asian Grand Prix series, despite having got an invitation.

In men’s 400m, Arokia Rajiv, who had been consistently winning the two Indian Grand Prix apart from the Federation Cup, got the nod in place of P. P. Kunhumohammed, who had been extended the invitation.

Siddhant Thingalaya, who caught the eye in the 100m and 110m hurdles, has been selected by the AFI, but Valson clarified that the hurdles event was doubtful for the talented Mumbai lad, as the “lanes were full”. He will be part of the relay team as well. “Thingalaya will run the hurdles if there is a vacancy or if they have an extra lane. For the relay, the organisers asked us to name the squad as the main idea is to try and qualify for the World Championships,” explained Valson.

Keta Ram, Arpinder Singh, Nikhil Chittarasu, Vipin Kasana, Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, Mukesh Kumari and Anu Mariam Jose were the other athletes selected by the AFI who did not have an invitation from the Grand Prix organisers.

“We need to have the same yardstick for everyone. We have to be fair to athletes who are performing,” said Randhawa.

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