How many medals do Indian athletes have to win at the Olympics for the Indian Olympic Association to take sports and its sportsmen seriously?
Despite Sushil Kumar’s repeated demands for a full-time physiotherapist or a masseur for the Indian wrestling squad at the London Games, there were none. Kumar, who went on to win silver on Sunday, had to arrange for his own physiotherapist, Arvinderpal Singh, who was there on a guest pass.
In wrestling, the entire draw right till the medal deciders in a particular weight category is completed in a day and someone who lasts till the final has to fight four to five bouts, and sometimes three in a span of one-and-a-half hours like Yogeshwar Dutt had to do on Saturday. In a contact sport like wrestling, injuries are common and a physio or a masseur living with the athletes at the Village is very important.
“A physio is an important part of our support system. The extr-emely competitive nature of our sport and the fact that we have to fight four to six bouts in a day makes the presence of a full-time physio and a masseur all the more crucial. Else, we can never be at our best,” Kumar had said on July 27 before leaving for Belarus after carrying India’s flag at the Games’ opening ceremony.
Before leaving, Kumar had again requested the acting chief-de-mission Brigadier Muralidh aran Raja to look into the matter, but despite an assurance, when the wrestlers came back to the Village on August 5, they discovered that there wasn’t any accreditation issued to physiotherapists. Forget accreditation, for the first two days Arvinderpal did not even have a guest pass and so could not enter the Village to attend to Kumar. So it was left to just one day when Kumar had the assistance of Arvinderpal to lose two kilograms for the weigh-in.
Kumar’s first bout on Sunday was at 8.30am and for that Arvinderpal, who has been working with the wrestler for the last two years, had to leave his hotel at 5.30am to ensure he reached the ExCeL Arena by 6.30am and get through the formalities for a guest pass. “It was difficult without an accreditation. There were times when he did not have a guest pass and we had to sneak him in,” Kumar said.
Dutt’s request for Patrick Kenny too was turned down and the England-based physio was given a guest pass only for the day of his competition. On the day Amit Kumar and Narsingh Yadav had their bouts, there was no physio with them. Amrinderpal was in the Village with Dutt, as he had to reduce 1,800 gm.