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Lack of preparation, selection issues cast a shadow on gymnasts

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Four years ago, Ashish Kumar made history by winning India’s first-ever medal in gymnastics at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and followed it up with a bronze at the Asian Games the same year.

As he gets ready for the 2014 CWG in Glasgow, Kumar’s hopes of a repeat rest more on prayers. That’s because Indian gymnasts have participated in only two international events since then – the World Championship in October 2013 and the Commonwealth Invitational Championship in Scotland in April this year.

The Indians did not have a single National camp from 2010 Asian Games till August last year with the gymnasts training in their respective cities on their own.

“I just hope we have a good day at Glasgow. I am not even thinking of an improved performance. With the kind of preparations we have had, even if I manage to retain my two medals, I will be happy,” Kumar said at a send-off function for Indian athletes by the Scottish Development Council.

To make matters worse, the gymnasts have managed to get a foreign coach (James Holt of USA) only in the past few months and a proposed 30-day training stint in France was cancelled by the Sports Authority of India with the government citing lack of funds.

“We had a similar stint in France before the 2010 edition and the difference in performance was visible. I may be doing great at home but how will I improve if I don’t practice with those better than me,” the 24-year old Kumar asks.

The fact that, despite all these shortcomings, the Indians managed to win seven medals in Scotland speaks loads about their commitment. “We do not go anywhere outside, then suddenly we are sent to the World Championships. And then they expect us to win medals. “If we don’t, we will be written off. If we do, like we did in Scotland, we still don’t get a foreign exposure tour despite repeated requests. What are we supposed to do,” Kumar asks, a question neither the federation nor the government has an answer to.

Internal wrangling

The internal wrangling in the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) has not helped. The GFI was suspended in 2011 and the gymnasts were left clueless with no government support.

That issue seems to have been finally sorted with the Sports Ministry granting provisional recognition to the Jaspal Singh Kandhari group last week, subject to the GFI amending its constitution in accordance with the National Sports Development Code and holding elections within three months after the Asian Games.

That is not all. Even though the entire Indian team – five members each in men and women artistic gymnastics and three in rhythmic gymnastics – is all set to fly to Glasgow on July 21, six of them have not been cleared by the government and would be sponsored by the federation itself.

“The government cleared all five women artistic participants but only approved Ashish Kumar and Rakesh Patra in the men’s event and none in rhythmic.

“You need minimum three participants to enter in a team event, so it didn’t make any sense. The federation has now decided to send the rest at its own expense,” said GFI assistant secretary SK Sharma.

There is more. The selection of remaining three men – Aditya Singh Rana, Partha Mandal and Siddarth Verma – has also become controversial. Ikraar Hasan, Sanjeev Burman and Abhijit Shinde had better results in the trials last month but were not selected, with GFI not giving any reason.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 5:41:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/lack-of-preparation-selection-issues-cast-a-shadow-on-gymnasts/article6226843.ece

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