In what appears to be a desperate bid to spruce up the inaugural South Asian Winter Games that is reeling due to poor participation, the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) pushed an underage player to take part in the men's 500m speed staking event on Tuesday.
Violating the International Skating Union's (ISU) rule, which bars those under 15 years of age from competing at senior level, the WGFI allowed a 13-year-old boy from Bangladesh to compete on the second day of the Games at Dehradun.
In fact, to make the rule more stringent, ISU also added a clause that if any national body breaks the rules, it will be barred from international competitions.
WGFI official R.K. Gupta admitted that juniors, that too under 15 years, can't switch to senior level even if the player is a bundle of talent, but admitted that, to run the show, the Bangladesh player was allowed to compete.
All this was done to meet the criterion for awarding medals, for which it is mandatory to have a minimum of three teams. The WGFI thus requested Maldives and Bangladesh to field its players. They did compete in the heats but were no match to the Indian who went on to dominate the show.
Bangladesh's Sabio Gomes, a fifth standard student of Dhaka's Don Bosco School, was among those who had just two days of experience on the artificial ice in Dehradun. Back home, it is inline skate for Gomes. "I don't train on ice. We don't have facilities back home," Gomes said after the event.
On the opening day, a 13-year-old Indian figure skater Ashwin Raj, a probable in the home team, wasn't allowed to compete to abide by the rules.
However, R.K. Gupta defended the decision to field the Bangladesh player. "The South Asian Games doesn't come under the umbrella of ISU. Hence home rules can be applied."
Players from Maldives and Bangladesh have refused to compete in both the 1,000 metres and 1,500 metres events scheduled for the last day. So far India is lone entrant.