The Asian Athletics Association, from a humble beginning, is now celebrating its 40th anniversary coinciding with the 20th continental championships all set to get underway here on Wednesday. And on the eve of the AAA Congress, which normally precedes the biennial championships, there was a sense of utmost satisfaction in the eyes of Maurice R. Nicholas, who has been at the helm of the association as secretary-treasurer throughout these 40 outstanding years.
“They just wanted me term after term,” said Nicholas to The Hindu on Sunday, reflecting on his long association with the AAA and its growth over the years.
The development of the AAA into a strong body was not achieved overnight, but due to persistent hard work and surmounting several hurdles along the way. Israel was part of the association during its initial stages. This caused considerable heartburn among the West Asia countries, which stayed away from the Asian championships as a mark of protest.
“It was a grave problem and to solve it required immense tact. But I would say that it was the vision and zeal displayed by our former president Seiko Yasuda which eventually helped us overcome it. Yasuda was not only a keen fan of the sport, but also an administrator who showed tact and great diplomacy in his dealings. I would rate him as the best president AAA has had in its 40 years of existence,” Nicholas said.
The 81-year-old veteran administrator from Singapore, throwing light on the initial years of the AAA also spoke on how Yasuda solved the problem by involving European leaders which led to Israel being adopted into the European Union.
Equally challenging, he said, was China’s entry into the fold and this again was solved due to the perseverance of Yasuda. “You take every aspect regarding the growth of AAA; it was this pious Japanese soul who guided the association with his administrative skills, whether it be opening a bank account, raising sponsorships and in establishing a permanent secretariat in Singapore.”
Asked if this was the policy which helped him overcome concerns when the Tamil Nadu Government pulled out of its commitment to host the championships citing political reasons, Nicholas did not mince words as he answered in a measured tone.
“No. I was never concerned at all as I knew all along that the Indian federation would be successful in finding a suitable host city. But where I was concerned was that political consideration overtook the noble cause of sport. I felt really bad when I realised that we are still a long way from living with each other in a peaceful manner.”
Nicholas also confirmed that he would be retiring in 2015 and thus bringing his long innings to an end. “As I told you earlier, I was always pressed to continue. But two years from now, I plan to quit and there can be no going back on my word this time around.”
Thingalaya opts out
Meanwhile, high hurdler Sidhant Thingalaya has opted out of the Indian team for the 20th Asian athletics championships to be held here from July 3 to 7.
The National record-holder in 110m hurdles (13.77s) has citied personal reasons for his decision to pull out of the championships.
AFI secretary C.K. Valson who confirmed the news to The Hindu, however, said that efforts were on to persuade the Maharashtra athlete not to pull out of the event and a firm decision will be taken within the next couple of days.
Valson confirmed that Anu Mariam Jose, who was earlier included only as a member of the women’s 4x400m relay team, would be the third Indian runner in the 400m alongside M.R. Poovamma and Nirmala.
“This was decided upon earlier itself, but Anu’s name was missing from the list due to a typographical error.”
India would also be fielding Tamil Nadu’s Mohammed Salahuddin in the men’s triple jump. Renjith Maheswary and Arpinder Singh will be the other two Indian jumpers in the event.