The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has decided that participation in selection trials before a major international meet will be mandatory to gain inclusion in the Indian team and there will be no concessions given to any athlete anymore.

Invariably, some athlete or the other — who is sure to make an Indian squad on the strength of his or her overall ranking or season’s performance — skips such selection trials, leaving the selectors guessing about their latest form.

The selection committee had raised this issue before picking the team for the London Olympics and the federation officials had assured that compulsory participation in trials would be ordered in the coming season.

The executive committee of the AFI, which met here on September 29 and 30, gave its stamp of approval for the proposal.

Such proposals and announcements had been made in the past too, only to be breached within no time. However, the AFI looks determined to enforce participation in domestic trials in order to gain India colours.

At least, that is what AFI Secretary C.K. Valsan had to say when reminded about the futility of such stipulations, keeping precedents in mind.

Asked about the reported decision of the executive to select only athletes who gain ‘A’ qualification standard for future Olympics, Valsan clarified the decision was to leave the choice of ‘B’ qualified athletes to the selection committee, while ensuring selection for ‘A’ norm holders.

Selection norms

Current form would be of importance and that was why final selection trials were being made compulsory, he said. Eight of the 14 Indian athletes in the London Olympics had ‘B’ standard.

Of the six who made it with ‘A’ standard, three were 20km walkers. The others were discus throwers Krishna Poonia and Seema Antil and shot putter Om Prakash Singh.

Poonia finished seventh with 63.62m, below her personal best and season best of 64.76m, while Seema Antil (61.91m, 13th) and Om Prakash Singh (19.86m, 19th) did not make the final.

Walker K.T. Irfan set a national record of 1:20:21 while coming 10th in the 20km walk, while the other two walkers, Gurmeet Singh (1:23:34) and Baljinder Singh (1:25:39) came 33rd and 43rd.

Performance ratings

Chief coach Bahadur Singh rated the performances of discus thrower Vikas Gowda (64.79m), who came eighth, 800m runner Tintu Luka, who had a season best of 1:59.69 in the semifinals, Poonia and Irfan as “good”.

He rated Om Prakash’s show as “average”, a rating that drew some objection at the meeting since the shot putter was considerably down from his 20.69m (‘A’ standard) for the season.

The others were rated “poor” by the chief coach. The performances of triple jumpers Renjith Maheswary (‘no mark’ in qualification round) and Mayookha Johny (13.77m, overall 22nd) came in for sharp criticism and review, according to sources.

There were question marks about the form of marathoner Ram Singh Yadav, Mayookha and Renjith who were asked to prove their fitness, though in the end the exercise proved farcical and the selection committee’s fears proved true.

The executive meeting was of the opinion that the practice of husbands becoming coaches of female athletes should be “discouraged”, a move that may bring a chorus of protests from established husband-coaches and the athletes.

It was also decided that ‘long-term’ training stints abroad should also be “discouraged”, while encouraging participation in international competitions, possibly because many such training exposures had failed to produce the desired results.

A walk academy, in collaboration with the Services Sports Control Board, and with the support of the Union Sports Ministry, at the Army Sports Institute at Pune, was mooted since it was felt the walkers stood a good chance of getting medals for the country.

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