It has been 16 years since India won its only medal in weightlifting at the Olympics — Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in the women’s 63kg category at the 2000 Sydney Games. From Sydney to Rio, there hasn’t been much progress in the sport as far as performance is concerned.
The sad part is this trend appears likely to continue. The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) is a divided house now thanks to factionalism stemming from petty politics.
CBR Prasad from Andhra Pradesh, a former national level weightlifter has formed a new group, which he claims is legitimate.
“We are a registered body under the societies act and have right to govern the functioning of weightlifting in the country,” said Prasad, who has nominated Dilip Das (from Kolkata) as the secretary of the new body.
The new group, under Prasad’s chairmanship, recently conducted a youth and junior national meet in Vijayawada. He claims 210 competitors participated in the meet. “Since we have legal documents, we plan to meet the sports ministry soon,” added Prasad.
The ruling group
The new group faces challenge from the incumbent weightlifting federation with Birendra Prasad Baishya as its president. The politician from Assam was elected in 2009 and holds office with D Chandrahas Rai as the secretary general.
“Vijayawada national meet was unauthorised. They (Prasad’s group) don’t have any legal right to run the functioning of weightlifting in the country as ours is the federation recognised by the world body,” Chandrahas Rai said, adding that they have approached the court in this regard.
The other group, however, said they haven’t got any notice. “We are not aware of any court proceedings,” said Prasad.
Things could come to a boil when the Baishya group organises its junior national meet in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, from November 16. “Since they (Baishya group) aren’t registered under the societies act, they can’t organise any events,” claimed Prasad.
However, one can’t help but wonder why the new group came out of nowhere soon after the Rio Olympics. Prasad said he has been working discreetly for seven long years to get all the necessary documents ready before acting.
Tough times ahead
The federation is already mired in controversies with its athletes constantly getting caught in doping violations. With the new development, things will further deteriorate. The weightlifters have no other choice but to brace for tough times ahead.
Read more | Doping and overage issues pulling India back
“If the issue isn’t sorted out soon top lifters might not get funding from the government for exposure trip,” said a national level coach.
Due to warring factions, sports such as basketball, gymnastics and boxing have been hit hard in the recent past. Boxers particularly have suffered the most.
Prasad, however, claims he isn’t interested in politics and is doing this just to promote the sport. “Have been promoted lifting in the past and would continue to do so in the future too,” he added.