An ill-considered itinerary has forced India to withdraw from the Archery World Cup, which gets underway in Medellin, Colombia, on Tuesday.
India had entered a 16-member team (eight, four women and four men, each in recurve and compound events) for the year’s first World Cup. The first batch ,comprising three archers, a coach and three support staff, was scheduled to leave for Medellin in the wee hours of Saturday. However, a one-hour delay in their flight from Delhi had a domino effect on the connecting flights and ultimately derailed their programme.
A team member said the airlines informed them that the delay was because of the closure of Pakistani airspace, which has forced several flight operators to take longer routes. “We were supposed to take a 3:45am flight to Amsterdam. From there, we had another flight to Bogota before taking another flight to Medellin. As per this plan, we would have reached our destination on Sunday night,” the team member told The Indian Express. “However, the airlines officials told us that the one-hour delay from Delhi would result in us missing all our connecting flights. If we had taken the alternate options provided to us, we would have reached Medellin on the morning of the World Cup.”
After spending almost the whole night at the airport, the Indian team returned to their hotel. Later on Saturday, the Archery Association of India decided to withdraw the team from the World Cup.
Questions, however, are being asked of the AAI and government’s planning. “The team was selected a month ago and the international schedule was declared well in advance. They could have booked an earlier flight. Reaching the venue one day before the tournament was not a good idea anyway,” another team member said.
Archery Association of India’s recently-elected president BVP Rao was not reachable for comment. Another AAI official blamed the slow-moving government machinery for the botch up. A government-appointed travel agency books athletes’ air tickets after the sports ministry’s approval.
Amidst the blame-game, it is clear that the Indian archers have missed out on a valuable tournament experience ahead of the World Championship in June, which doubles up as Olympic qualifier. 189 archers from 35 countries are taking part in the tournament, which offers world ranking points.
India had selected full-strength team that was spearheaded by Deepika Kumari, the defending stage winner in the women’s recurve category.
Crucially, Deepika & Co. are set to miss out on the year’s second World Cup in Shanghai next month as well.
The AAI has chosen a second-string team for that event. It means Indian archers will go into the all-important World Championship after competing in just one international competition all year – the stage three of the World Cup in Antalya next month. “We will barely have any match practice going into the World Championship. This is not an ideal scenario for us,” a team member said.