Lack of knowledge about international biathlon competition norms and swimming experience in the sea have cost the Indian athletes, including U.M. Abitha, who participated in the event with the help of The Hindu readers, medals in the meet held at Cyprus recently.
After selecting 23 athletes for biathlon, a sporting event that combines running and swimming, the Indian Modern Pentathlon Association organised the week-long intensive training camp at Pune. During the camp, the biathlon team members were asked to run on the track and swim in the pool as they trained under the watchful eyes of the coaches.
When they were about to leave for the international meet, the Association members, much to everyone’s shock, informed the athletes that they would have to run on the road and then swim in the sea. “Only on reaching Cyprus via Cairo, we got a chance to swim in the sea and that too for only one day, which was not enough for us,” says R. Isman Singh, who represented the country in the ‘Under -16 category’. When Mr. Isman Singh and Ms. Abitha ran for a kilometer on the road, they led the race. The problem started when they entered the sea.
“It was totally a different experience for me as I did not have adequate practice in the sea,” recalls Ms. Abitha, who managed to get 13th place in her category while Mr. Isman Singh came 12th. When Ms. Abitha’s father U. Muthukumar was unable to mobilise funds to send his daughter to the international meet, a few readers of ‘ The Hindu ’ generously contributed which took the outstanding athlete to Cyprus. While the Karur Vysya Bank contributed Rs. 1 lakh, a Tuticorin-based lubricant oil dealer gave Rs. 50,000.
District Collector C. Samayamoorthy took special efforts to ensure the early disbursal of passport to Ms. Abitha. Secretary of Indian Modern Pentathlon Association’s Tamil Nadu branch Balavinayagam said the event could be conducted in swimming pool as well as in the sea, as per the existing norms.
Since the sea would be rough in many parts of the country, the team members were allowed to train in the swimming pool and also on the track for running. “We’ll look into this problem,” he assured.