The sports ministry has raised objection over the inclusion of Saina Nehwal’s father Harvir and PV Sindhu’s mother Vijaya as team officials in India’s 330-member contingent for next month’s Commonwealth Games. The duo is likely to be told to travel at ‘no cost to government’, meaning they either bear their own expenses or be funded by the badminton federation.
The shuttlers’ parents aren’t the only ones the ministry has objected to. Shooting coaches Ronak Pandit and Jaspal Rana, wrestling coach Rajeev Tomar, para-athletes manager Satya Sangwan and contingent’s chief medical officer Arun Mendiratta are among the 15 names whose participation at the Gold Coast Games is uncertain.
Sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is likely to take a final call on the official contingent on Friday.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra spoke to Rathore on Thursday evening, requesting him not to strike off any names from the list. He, instead, has suggested that the ‘extra’ officials be sent at no cost to government.
“We have told the ministry that the federation will be spending for each official who falls outside the quota allotted to us. However, if the government does not clear a name, we cannot take them. So we have asked the ministry to look into the matter,” Batra said.
As per the Commonwealth Games regulations, the number of officials cannot be more than one-third of the total contingent size. According to Batra, India can send 74 officials — which include coaches, physios and managers — to support the 222 athletes selected for the Games. However, the final team list has a total of 76 officials and 32 ‘extra officials’, which include 11 IOA members.
The organisers will pay for the travel, food and accommodation of the athletes and officials. The government, meanwhile, will pay for the daily allowance ($50 for athletes, $25 for officials) and other expenses. However, every country will have to bear the costs for its ‘extra’ officials, who primarily are the additional member of the support staff who could not be a part of the official team due to quota restrictions.
No role assigned to shuttlers’ parents
A sports ministry official said eyebrows were raised over the inclusion of Saina and Sindhu’s parents because there were no roles assigned to them in the contingent list.
It is not the first time athletes’ parents have been named in the official team. At the 2014 Asian Games, Sania Mirza’s mother was named as the manager of the women’s tennis team. Saina’s father, too, has routinely travelled with her for international tournaments, including the Rio Olympics, but he has never been part of a contingent.
Batra argued that the IOA could not shoot down Saina and Sindhu’s ‘request’ due to their stature. “I don’t know why the sports ministry is not agreeing to clear the parents of Sindhu and Saina to accompany them. The government is not going to bear their expenses,” Batra said.
“These shuttlers are our big sporting stars now and we should be supporting them. If a Virat Kohli or a Sachin Tendulkar had wanted to do the same as Sindhu and Saina are requesting now, will they (ministry) say no to them also?”
A ministry official, however, argued that while they had no objection to the parents travelling to Gold Coast, it should not be at the cost of tax-payers’ money. “We respect what Saina and Sindhu have achieved but we can’t make exceptions for certain athletes,” the official said. Badminton team physio Johnson Solomon, too, might not get government’s clearance.
Shooting: Doubts over Ronak, Jaspal’s inclusion
Shooting, however, faces at bigger crisis if the ministry sticks to its guns. There are doubts over the government clearing the names of CWG gold medal winners-turned-coaches Ronak Pandit and Jaspal Rana.
Pandit has been associated with the team for a long time, working on an individual basis with several shooters. He was recently named as the observer for rifle and pistol events by the National Rifle Association of India. Rana, an Arjuna Awardee, is seen as one of the main men behind the emergence of several young shooters recently. He is already in Sydney for the junior World Cup.
Doctor snubbed for criticising anti-doping agency
Parents and coaches are not the only ones who are facing the chop. The ministry has also struck off the names of chief medical officer Arun Mendiratta and physiotherapist Hema Valecha. Both were a part of IOA’s 11-member team for the Games.
Mendiratta, it is learnt, has not received the government’s clearance of his critical of the National Anti-Doping Agency’s methods. Among other issues, Mendiratta – who is also the chief medical officer of the Athletics Federation of India – had pointed out that the anti-doping kits used for the Asian Athletics Championships were not tamper proof. NADA had refuted those claims.
Valecha, a physio with the Sports Authority of India, has been pulled up for not taking prior permission of her employers.
“All these people contribute to the good performance of the players,” Batra said. “I can’t understand why the ministry is raising unnecessary issues.”
Discrepancies in IOA, AFI team lists
New Delhi: The final contingent list submitted by the Indian Olympic Association to the sports ministry for approval does not include names of three Gold Coast-bound athletes while four athletes who are not part of the squad find a mention in the official team. High jumper Siddharth Yadav, long jumper Sreeshankar, 1,500 runner Jinson Johnson and 4x400m relay team member Arokiya Rajiv are not included in IOA’s list despite being named by the AFI.
Long-distance runner Govindan Lakshmanan, 1,500m specialist Ajay Saroj, 110m hurdles runner Siddhanth Thingalaya and 4x400m relay runner Sumit Kumar have been named instead. Dharun Ayyasamy, who will compete in 400m and 4x400m relay races, has been named as a competitor in the 400m hurdles in IOA’s list. In the women’s side, javelin thrower Annu Rani finds a mention despite failing to make the cut for the Games while Suriya Longanathan, who will run 10,000m race, finds her name in both 10,000m and 5,000m races.