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Commonwealth Games: Faction-ridden Indian gymnastics tying itself in knots

Two axed gymnasts have petitioned the Delhi High Court and only one of seven coaches have been cleared for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

other sports Updated: Mar 29, 2018 23:39 IST
India will field a seven-member team, including four women, in the gymnastics competition at the Commonwealth Games starting on April 5
India will field a seven-member team, including four women, in the gymnastics competition at the Commonwealth Games starting on April 5(Getty Images)

The Indian gymnastics squad’s task at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has become even more difficult due to distractions in the build-up, chief coach Gurdial Singh Bawa has said.

India will field a seven-member team, including four women, in the gymnastics competition starting on April 5. The squad is without Dipa Karmakar as the vault hope, fourth in the 2016 Rio Olympics, is yet to regain full fitness following knee surgery.

However, controversy has preceded the Games.

Bawa, overseeing the national camp at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Sports Complex here, said the environment was not good. “In the build-up weeks if the players are preoccupied with off-the-field activities, it’s not the best way to prepare,” he said.

Controversy has erupted due to the two Gymastics Federation of India (GFI) factions, one recognised by the world body and another by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

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The IOA-backed group with Shantikumar Singh as secretary general organised trials here in February.

The faction with Ranjeet Vasava as secretary general -- recognised by the world body -- dropped Mohd Bobby and Gaurav Kumar from the squad, replacing them with Rakesh Patra and Yogeshwar Singh.

Bobby and Kumar petitioned the Delhi High Court, which in its order on March 23 asked IOA to consider including the two. However, they have not been included, and the next hearing is scheduled for April 2.

To escape the controversy, the seasoned Ashish Kumar, who won silver in vault and bronze in floor exercises at the 2010 New Delhi CWG and bronze in floor exercises at the Guangzhou Asian Games that year, flew to Australia early.

Ashish Kumar, who excelled in the trials, opted out of the national camp, preferring pre-Games training in Australia. Rakesh Patra and Yogeshwar Singh hardly attended the camp while woman gymnast, Aruna Reddy has chosen to train in Uzbekistan.

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Dipa’s Rio Games showing had raised hopes of more young Indian boys and girls taking up gymnastics. However, the in-fighting has dampened such hopes.

“Looking at the infighting in GFI, the popularity of gymnastics is certainly on the decline,” said a national-level coach.

There is controversy over the government clearing only one of eight coaching staff -- woman coach Minara Begum alone has got the nod. No official has been cleared with the gymnastics squad.

Ashish Kumar’s coach, Manoj Kumar, is in Australia with his ward but hasn’t got government clearance, it is learnt. IOA secretary general Rajiv Mehta said it would be difficult to get accreditation without approval.

“Regarding the clearance of gymnastics coaching staff, I am yet to hear from the government,” Mehta said over phone from Australia.