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Infighting in gymnastics federation surfaces ahead of Commonwealth Games

The records of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), the world body, show different sets of office-bearers ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

other sports Updated: Mar 15, 2018 22:57 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Commonwealth Games,Indian Olympic Association,International Gymnastics Federation
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) are engaged in infighting ahead of 2018 Commonwealth Games.(AFP)

Infighting between two factions of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) has surfaced again ahead of next month’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (CWG). An amicable solution isn’t in sight as records of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), the world body, show different sets of office-bearers.

After India’s Rio Olympics high, where Dipa Karmakar finished a creditable fourth in the women’s vault to raise the country’s stock in gymnastics, administrative mess has hit the sport’s development hard. India’s disappointing show in the 2017 World Championships in Montreal was a pointer in the downward slide.

Since the sports ministry de-recognised GFI in 2012, to field a team for the CWG, the IOA had conducted trials at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on February 12-14. However, it snowballed into a controversy.

The faction recognised by FIG, whose president is Sudhakar Shetty and secretary-general Ranjeet Vasava, made changes in the national team, particularly in the men’s section, selected by IOA. Then, in a communication to IOA, the world body said, “It is the prerogative of the national gymnastics federation to field the team for CWG and not IOA.” The statement made IOA’s efforts to select a team redundant.

Record manipulated

In 2015, the Delhi High Court ordered fresh elections to GFI. Shetty and S Shantikumar Singh were elected president and secretary-general respectively. Documents in the possession of Hindustan Times show IOA had communicated the result to the world body and it was confirmed by FIG secretary-general Andre F Guelsbuhler on September 3.

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However, FIG website shows Shetty as president and Ranjit Vasava as general secretary.

The development took IOA by surprise. “We don’t know how it happened. The world body claims IOA had communicated to them in 2016, but I don’t know who did it,” said IOA secretary-general Rajiv Mehta. “We haven’t been able to trace the communication.”

Shetty, a Mumbai businessman, is incommunicado. Even Mehta hasn’t interacted with him in the last two years. “Due to his absence, the issue hasn’t been solved,” said Mehta.

When this correspondent called Shetty’s office in Mumbai, the reply was, “The president is unavailable.” Despite leaving a message, Shetty didn’t call back.

The Shetty faction, which includes Vasava, is holding a national meet in Surat from March 22 while the other faction had organised a nationals in February at Mohali.

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Samir Deb, a former national-level coach from Chandigarh, said CWG is good platform to make an impression. “Winning a medal in Asian Games is like podium finish in Olympics,” he added.

In 2010 Delhi CWG, Ashish Kumar opened up a new chapter by winning two medals—silver in vault and bronze in floor exercises. The same year, he also won bronze in the floor event at the Asian Games. But four years later, he failed to impress in Glasgow.

Before 2014 CWG, Sports Authority of India (SAI) constituted an ad-hoc panel with Gurdial Singh Bawa, a former chief coach, as head of the coaching staff.

Deb said since national competitions were not held in the last four years, fresh talent wasn’t spotted. “If the national team is selected via trials, it’s a big drawback,” he added.

First Published: Mar 15, 2018 19:00 IST