In an open letter issued on Wednesday, Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla clarified that PU Chitra and two other athletes were excluded from India’s contingent for the World Championships as their performance was “no where close” to the qualification mark set by the the International Association of Athletics Federation.
Sumariwalla said that the call to exclude athletes - Chitra (1500m, women), Ajay Kumar Saroj (1500m, men) and Sudha Singh (300m steeple chase, women) - was taken unanimously by the selection committee that comprised of Olympians GS Randhawa, Paramjit Singh, Praveen Jolly and Uday Prabhu. The release stated that the panel picked the team in the presence of Government observer and Olympian PT Usha, JS Saini, and Radhakrishnan Nair, coach Bahadur Singh, AFI secretary CK Valson and Sumariwalla himself.
Earlier, PT Usha had also confirmed that Chitra was not included in the team due to her failure to meet the qualifying mark set by IAAF.
Chitra’s ouster had set tongues wagging as she was expected to be included in the squad for the World Athletic championships to be held in London from August 4 to 13 since she had won gold in the recent Asian Championships.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had backed Chitra and said in a Facebook post that excluding the athlete, “pride not only of Kerala but also the country, from the team for World Athletics Championship is condemnable.”
Athletes have two routes to the World Athletics Championship. One is by making the qualification mark set by IAAF and the second one is by winning gold in the continental championships.
In the case of Chitra, she did not meet the qualification standard. However, she won gold in Asian championship held at Bhubaneswar.
“The AFI has decided to send athletes only if their performance is near the qualification mark of the event. Chitra’s performance is nowhere near the qualification mark,” Usha added.
In his letter, Sumariwalla cited the athletes’ performance data that stated Chitra’s performance “dropped significantly” at the Interstate event and her timing was not close enough to meet the World Qualifying mark.
According to the letter Saroj had a similar dip in form and his timing was not close enough to the World Qualifying mark.
Meanwhile, Sudha was excluded from contingent as she did not compete at the Interstate event, which the AFI had made mandatory for all athletes including medal winners from the Asian meet, who did not attain the World Qualifying mark. The AFI wanted the athletes to compete and come close to the mark, the release added.
“The members of selection committee including its chairman are eminent sports personalities with strong a athletics background, unquestionable integrity and great understanding of their sport with years of experience in both coaching and selection of Indian team,” Sumariwalla stated in the letter.
“As the President of AFI, I assure you, the selection committee has always been completely
fair, impartial and selects the Indian team with great responsibility as it is a matter of national
pride,” he added.
Twenty-four athletes, including 14 men and 10 women athletes and support staff have been picked to represent India at the tournament to be held in London from August 4 and 13.