Even before the Indian athletes can begin their quest for medals at the London Olympic Games, they are straddled with a host of vexing — in fact worrisome — problems which could severely affect their chances of mounting the podium.
While all leading nations are bringing in various support staff, including physiotherapists and masseurs, to soothe the aching bodies of their athletes, India's two strongest medal disciplines — wrestling and archery —will be without a physio or masseur.The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) could have learnt a lesson from the 2008 Beijing Games, where Sushil Kumar had to contest four bouts — three of them in an hour — in a single day before he could lay his hands on the bronze. Leave alone the luxury of a physio and a mental trainer, Sushil didn't even have a masseur to help his body recover between bouts.
The situation is the same, with the five-member wrestling squad and six-member archery team only having a flock of officials and coaches to guide them on the biggest sporting stage. In a last-ditch effort, Sushil has requested that Arvinderpal Singh, the physio attached with the national camp for the last two years, be given accreditation for London even if it means sending one official less. Yogeshwar Dutt, quarterfinalist at the Beijing Games, has requested the sports ministry for the services of England-based physio Patrick Kenny, who will be based outside the Village.
The WFI has crowded its contingent with three coaches and a manager, Raj Singh, the federation general secretary.
“The International Olympic Council has a fixed quota of officials accompanying the athletes and we have allotted the accreditations to wrestling and archery federations as per their designated quotas,” said the IOA acting president VK Malhotra. “We are getting requests from the WFI for accommodating a physio, but it's not possible now.”
The same goes for the archery association, which is sending three coaches and a manager — Paresh Nath Mukherjee — who is the federation's general secretary. In contrast, Hockey India (HI) opted for a fitness expert from Australia, David John, to accompany as team manger, thus taking care of the team's most pressing need.
“The federation could have taken a cue from HI and designated a coach as manager to create a slot for a physio,” said an international archer.
In wrestling too, the WFI could have accommodated a coach as manager and got on board physio Arvinderpal or, better still, Georgian coach, Vladimir Mesta, who is getting $4500 per month from the sports ministry.
In stark contrast, the tennis contingent will have three physiotherapists and two managers --- including Sania Mirza’s mother, Naseema — for the seven-member squad. Strange, but that’s what the IOA has willed.
The tennis association is the beneficiary of two out of six special 'P' accreditation quotas given to the IOA, in addition to the regular number of quotas given to each federation. It's questionable why the IOA decided to dish out special favours to tennis (2 special quota), hockey (2) and shooting (2), but it has certainly caused heartburn in the Indian contingent.
More pain for Antil
Discus thrower Seema Antil's woes don't seem to end. Still to get her Games Village accreditation, she was provided accommodation by the Mittals Champions Trust on Tuesday. Now, her training too is suffering as she finds herself without a coach after a long stint in the US.
Her personal coach, American Tony Ciarellia, wasn't given accreditation, while her request for trainer and husband, Ankush, was turned down. Antil was told that chief national coach, Bahadur Singh, would take care of her training. The problem is that Bahadur will reach London on July 28.
It’s nothing new in Indian sports.