Anu Raghavan, an upcoming athlete from Kerala, is the latest victim of petty politics. Despite winning gold in women’s 400m hurdles at the Open National Athletics meet in Kolkata last September, the college student was dropped for the ongoing South Asian Games in Guwahati.
This is strange as the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had selected the national team based on the performance in Kolkata.
So, why was Anu dropped? CK Valson, AFI secretary-general, said it was due to indiscipline. Her fault, she didn’t attend the camp due to academic commitments and had informed the federation when her name was shortlisted for the relay team preparing for the Rio Olympics.
The federation even sent Anu a show-cause notice for not attending the camp.
Last year, besides the women’s team, AFI had given exposure to the men’s 400m squad too. The camp during the Turkey tour in November and December was overseen by controversial Ukrainian coach Yuri Ogorodnik.
When the AFI announced the team for the South Asian Games, Ashwini Akkunji replaced Anu. Ashwini hadn’t competed last season due to injury, hence it was strange how the federation selected her as there were no trials in 400m hurdles. Even when Ashwini boarded the flight to Turkey, eyebrows were raised on why the AFI had selected an unfit athlete for the exposure tour.
It is also surprising how she got fit within two months to compete in the South Asian Games.
Valson said the federation was careful not to select athletes for international events who hadn’t attended the camp. “We have a strict anti-doping programme in the camps, but have no control over athletes training across the country,” was another reason he gave to exclude Anu from the team.
There are several athletes including shot-putter Inderjit Singh who didn’t attend the national camp, but were selected to the national team.
The national champion expressed his inability to compete in the South Asian Games as he is training in Pennsylvania’s Aphelion Athletics Club with personal coach Pritam Singh and manager Shakti Singh.
Last week, he had expressed keenness to compete in Guwahati, but on Sunday posted a message on social media that he had strained his back and couldn’t compete.
Since November, there has been no news of Inderjit’s performance. His exposure trip was funded by the sports ministry under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).