The country’s top athletes aspiring to achieve Rio Games qualification marks at the season-opening Indian Grand Prix meet on Sunday went home disappointed.
Due to a major power failure at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, venue of the meet, the electronic timing system didn’t function. As per International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules, manual timings are not considered for the record books.
Two sprinters’ - Amiya Kumar Mallick and Srabani Nandaware - Olympic hopes vanished after their record-breaking performances could not be officially classified.
Mallick was timed running the 100 metres in 10.09 seconds, which not only shattered the national record by 0.21 seconds but was also quicker than the Olympic qualification mark of 10.16 seconds.
Nandaware won the women’s 100 metres in 11.23 seconds, apparently breaking the 16-year-old national record of 11.38 seconds and faster than the Rio qualification time of 11.32 seconds.
The stadium, renovated during the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, lacks a power back-up system. The venue comes under the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“It’s upsetting,” said a participant. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) too expressed helplessness, saying that all payments for hiring the venue had been made in advance.
But an AFI official said stadium administrators had blamed the blackout on a transformer fire.
“There were generators there but still they said there is no back up,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Sunny Joshua, president of the Delhi Athletics Association which co-hosted the event, said the outage happened just as the competition began.
“It happened all a sudden just before the start of the meet. We didn’t even get the back up, so it was very disappointing,” Joshua told AFP.
“But let’s not play the blame game. I don’t think anybody would do this on purpose. It has happened for the first time in 30 odd years, so I hope it’s just a one-time incident,” he added.
The athletes will have another shot at booking a Rio berth during the Federation Cup, which is due to be held at the same venue from April 28-30.
(with PTI and AFP inputs)