WUG champion lashes out at lax officials
By assuming the 'responsibility' himself, chef-de-mission, Gurdeep Singh, may have denied Harveen Sarao a chance to carry the Tricolour at the ongoing World University Games' opening ceremony in Shenzhen, China, but the gritty shooter, a gold medallist at the 2007 edition, took the episode in her stride and ensured her individual 10m air pistol gold (and team gold) did the nation proud.Updated: Aug 23, 2011 01:02 IST
By assuming the 'responsibility' himself, chef-de-mission, Gurdeep Singh, may have denied Harveen Sarao a chance to carry the Tricolour at the ongoing World University Games' opening ceremony in Shenzhen, China, but the gritty shooter, a gold medallist at the 2007 edition, took the episode in her stride and ensured her individual 10m air pistol gold (and team gold) did the nation proud.
While representing the country is a matter of pride for the players, for some officials the trip is nothing more than a paid vacation. From getting customs clearance of weapons, enquiring about pre-event training schedules, to getting 'India' stickers embossed on T-shirts, everything is done by the athletes.
"I have represented the country in several tournaments, including the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships, but I have never seen such a casual approach on the part of the officials," an angry Harveen told HT on Monday.
Aware of the repercussions, she went on to add: "I know these officials will be annoyed and I will have to put up with their sarcastic remarks, but I am prepared for it."
Even while the shooting camp was on, Harveen had protested against the shortage of pellets, and it was only after HT reported on the shooters' plight, did the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) make the pellets available.
But Harveen had to pay for speaking up. She was asked to sign an application that everything was well in the camp and that she had been misquoted. "When I refused, I was threatened that I would be dropped from the team," said Harveen.
The ordeal had just begun, as the shooters got no help from Savita Kochar, the team manager, during the customs clearance of weapons at the Beijing airport. "She (Savita) did not wait for us and was the first one to board the flight while we were the last," said Harveen. All the 12 weapons were cleared in Harveen's name.
Even after HT reported that the chef-de-mission was the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, Shalini Malhotra, an official, advised Harveen not to bother herself if an official had become the flag-bearer instead of an athlete.
Interestingly, Shalini, whose specialisation is basketball, is in China as coach of the women's tennis team.
Clement Raj Kumar, who is the manager of the tennis squad, turned up late for a meeting and it led to a girl, who was supposed to play singles, being named for doubles and the doubles player being named for singles.
Instances of official apathy are unending. For the first few days, there were no refreshments for the shooters and nor were they informed about pre-event training schedules. To top it all, many of them did not have sufficient pellets. Rifle shooter Ayonika Paul had to participate with her pellets.
"Even while my event was on, these things were on my mind, but I kept telling myself that I had to win gold to be able to highlight the callousness of these officials," said Harveen. "The shooting squad was the last to get clearance from the sports ministry but we've contributed two gold. Once we get back, the officials will target me, but my request to the ministry is that they should not send officials who go with the aim of having a good time," she said.
First Published: Aug 23, 2011 01:01 IST