AFI needs a plan B

Some decisions are so forward-thinking, they're best left to the future.

So goes with Athletics Federation of India's call limiting Indian track and field Olympics entries to those who qualify with an 'A' standard. 8 of the 14 travelling to London, clung to the bare minimum 'B' standard, some returning with non-descript results.

AFI wants to weed out this mediocrity. By strengthening the selection committee's culling shears, so that no Indian ever brings embarrassment by failing to clear the first height. It's a lofty ambition based on the belief that India's on the threshold of taking the next step. We reckon it isn't.

This well-meaning shifting of goal-posts is pre-mature and should be deferred to the future when India actually starts teeming with talent, where selectors are faced with that delicious headache weighing two candidates; their trained eye summoned to pick the better bet. A squad of 14 needs no trimming.

It's all well to have an elitist approach. But are we an elite nation a Jamaica, Kenya or USA? We're not even Australia, who after much debating agreed to accomodate 'B'-athletes. Independent India's never won an athletics medal. So a medal-or-nothing criterion, suits a sport like shooting. Athletics a polite not now, maybe later.

For, experience of the big stage can be all-important. Our recent medallists are mostly second-time Olympians. Ask Ronjan Sodhi or Deepika Kumari how different their results would be had this been their second turn.

AFI's Adille Sumariwala insists there's no funding crunch, which forced the pruning in Australia. Also, in Tintu Luka there's one example of an athlete who made her 'B' standard count. Trinidadian Keshorn Walcott won the javelin gold after qualifying under a 'B' standard!

Finally, would I, a tax-payer, be embarrassed watching an Indian come 78th in an Olympic marathon? Nope.

... contd.

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