At least 11 players of the 18-member squad that finished a depressing fourth at the Olympic qualifiers in Kazan (Russia) on Sunday were carrying injuries. In fact, most members of the squad that failed to qualify for the Olympics were considered unfit to play an international-level event.
On a day when the IOA sacked the men’s hockey federation, the revelations are another indictment of the rot that has set into our national sport.
<b1>The Hindustan Times has a copy of a confidential report submitted by Rupa Saini, the government’s own observer for women’s hockey, on March 25, just 16 days before the team’s departure. Dr Saini’s report clearly states: “11 girls are suffering from different injuries and are under treatment and thus are not fit for international competition of the standard of Olympic Qualifying. Physical fitness test should be conducted on these injured players before leaving the country by SAI experts also.”
Interestingly, both the government and the hockey federation were aware of this and still sent them to the prestigious April 19-25 tournament.
Mentioning captain Mamta Kharab, Sabha Anjum, Ritu Rani, Rajwinder Kaur and Deepika Murthy by name, it states: “All the above girls are in the list of 18 players. I don’t know how they will cope up with the fitness of other players when fitness is the prime tactics of winning. Senior players should set up an example for juniors in training.”
The report specifically mentions how often certain players needed extra “periods of rest” because they were unfit and needed to skip training sessions.
“Some playing members (1st XI) were on rest for the last 10-15 days due to injuries. Their fitness matters in (the) team’s performance, though they are good at skills.”
While IWHF president Vidya Stokes was in New Delhi but not contactable (we were told she also did not have a mobile phone), repeated attempts to speak to Union Sports Secretary SK Arora were stonewalled by his office. Finally, HT was told that he would not be available on the day, despite the seriousness of the issue being explained to them.
The physiological report of the team showed that “all the girls” did not have required “cardio-respiratory fitness levels”. It continues: “They are also lacking in speed and strength. The protocol followed for determining the physiological status has not been mentioned in the report submitted and an important parameter like an anaerobic threshold/lactate threshold has not been carried out.”
In any sport, especially intense physical sports like hockey, endurance and the ability to quickly recover are essential. The players were sub-par on this too. “The recovery of all the girls is very poor and thus physiologically also they are unfit and not having the standard desired for international competition,” Dr Saini wrote. There are two other very interesting notations. One reads: “As per the blood reports, hockey players at serial number 2, 3, 9, 12, 15, 22, 26 and 27 are not having optimal haemoglobin levels, which will affect their endurance and performance.”
Another stated: “Hockey probables at serial numbers 2, 4 and 20, in view of the findings in urine, need further investigations.” As the HT could not re-confirm the serial number to name matches, we are withholding these names. But the issue is clear.
Talking to the HT on Monday, Dr Saini confirmed the findings of her report. Asked whether the players could have recovered in the time between her submitting it and when they left for Kazan (April 10), she said “no”.
“There is no way they could have recovered in 10 days to two weeks given the problems they had,” she said, adding that while some of the tests she recommended were done, they were undated, so she had no idea when they were conducted.
When she said as much to the IWHF, they told her that the coach (MK Kaushik) “had taken complete responsibility for the team and all the players”.
The squad is expected back later on Monday night.