The country’s premier athletics venue, Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, has been without a permanent pole vault apparatus for over six months. This has forced athletes to train in the long jump pit, the makeshift arrangement responsible for several twisted ankles and knees. A few of the Capital’s pole vaulters are contemplating quitting the sport, others are dealing with a sudden drop in performance.
Devraj, a 2019 Delhi state medallist, couldn’t land a single legal jump at last month’s Open Nationals in Warangal. “I could do 4.80m earlier but now I can’t even make a proper jump. With great difficulty, I have been able to procure poles but what will I do without a pit? I am considering selling them off,” says Devraj.
The SAI, in a statement to The Indian Express, said that the pole vault discipline was “moved” to Bangalore in December where the NCOE (National Centre of Excellence) will function. “Pole vault equipment integral to Pole vault NCOE (National Centre of Excellence) have moved to a new location in Dec 2020 and all facilities wrt pole vault are available at Bangalore,” the statement read.
Vaulters forced to practice at the jump pit in JLN pic.twitter.com/WBMItBTIdj
— Express Sports (@IExpressSports) October 6, 2021
Stadium authorities have locked up the existing “unfit” pits in the storeroom. For the recent under-23 National Championships, the Indian Army came to the rescue ensuring the pole vault event wasn’t scrapped as was the case at the Delhi state meet organised a few weeks back at the same venue.
“The Rajputana Rifles lent us the pole vault pits. They brought it in their Army trucks and took it back after the event,” says an official.
SAI further stated that “the issue of new pits” for competitions is being “deliberated”. That means that the ordeal of pole vaulters at the stadium is unlikely to end soon.
“We don’t have a pit for over six months now. I am tired of running after stadium officials. What hurts me more than the absence of the pit is the condescending tone in which certain administrators talk to us. Do you want to know why India doesn’t win as many medals as it should? It’s because of administrators like these,” a dejected Delhi state medallist said.
On Monday, a group of frustrated pole vaulters reached administrator Satyadev Prasad’s office seeking an update on the matter, only to be told that “he couldn’t do much.” Prasad refused to comment on the issue.
Athletes say that moving the facility to Bangalore wouldn’t help them.
“I have just started. How can you expect me to leave my home and go to Bangalore? I am not even part of the NCOE. What will Delhi’s young vaulters do? You can’t expect everyone to move to a new city,” says 17-year-old Rahul (name changed).
Rahul came to JLN with high hopes. Back in his school, using a bamboo stick as a pole and haystacks as a pit, he managed to cross the 3m mark. He thought that at JLN he would be able to try his hand at an actual pit for the first time, but was left dejected. “I cannot believe that the country’s best stadium does not have a pole vault pit. I still can’t,” says Rahul.
Those who are presently training in the long jump pit fear injuries. “Our knees hurt and a few days back my ankle got twisted. But what can we do? Our performances have gone down as well. If things don’t change, I will have to quit,” says a young vaulter on condition of anonymity.