Kerala HC orders AFI to include PU Chitra for IAAF World Championships
The Kerala High Court also asked the union sports ministry and AFI to submit details of the selection procedure for the IAAF World Championships after PU Chitra’s omission caused controversyUpdated: Jul 28, 2017 23:21 IST
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) was on a spot on Friday after the Kerala high court directed it to include woman middle-distance runner PU Chithra in the squad for the August World Athletics Championships in London.
The Kerala runner won the 1,500m at the July Asian athletics meet in Bhubaneswar at 4 minutes 17 seconds, and was second in the inter-state meet clocking around 4:28. The entry standard for the August 4-13 London meet is 4:07.
There was controversy over the omission of some athletes. The selection committee headed by former athletics great, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, is said to have felt Chithra was not consistent and performing to the level required at world level.
However, Chithra being ignored led to an outcry in Kerala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s requested the Union Sports Ministry’s intervention but when it expressed helplessness, her coach NS Sijin petitioned the court.
‘Selection not transparent’
Delivering the interim order, Justice PB Suresh Kumar, observed that the selection procedure was not transparent and questioned the presence of many officials in the squad. The court has asked the union sports ministry and AFI to submit details of the selection procedure. The case will be taken up on Monday for detailed hearing.
The AFI argued Chithra was omitted from the 24-member team because she failed to meet the qualifying mark set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). But she contended her Asian meet victory made her an automatic pick for London.
“I am really grateful to all who supported me,” Chithra said after the verdict. But since most squad members have already left, it remains to be seen how the athletic body will respond.
At the hearing, the AFI told the court the deadline for submitting names had expired a couple of days back.
Chithra’s quest for a berth in the world championships had touched a chord in athletics-mad Kerala, especially as the 22-year-old hails for a poor family (her father is a daily wage labourer) and has gradually developed since taking up athletics as a 10-year-old.
Usha under fire
Former track great PT Usha has faced heavy social media criticism in Kerala for her media comments that Chithra had not performed to the standard required. On Friday, she said with the AFI president, Adille Sumariwalla in the IAAF executive panel and CK Valson in its technical committee, they can request the world body president, Sebastian Coe, for Chithra’s inclusion.
Sumariwalla had in a detailed letter posted on the AFI website explained why three athletes, including Chithra, were omitted.
“Her performance dropped significantly after AAC2017 (Asian meet) at Inter-state event & timing was not better than even Indian junior national record timing - Not close enough to World Q Mark at inter-state which was last chance to achieve Q Mark. She was also beaten to second position (in Guntur),” he remarked in the letter.