Organiserís lapse: On wheelchairs, they led the race but took the wrong turn and lost

Pune wheelchair athletesThe race, supposed to end at Nehru Stadium, was marred by mismanagement and the group ended up at Yerawada

It was a sports event that was supposed to bring out the best among the participants. But for the 15 frontrunners of the 28 wheelchair-bound athletes of Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre and Military Hospital, Khadki, it turned out to a harrowing experience. The event was 6.5-km Pune Marathon held on Sunday morning.

The race, supposed to end at the Nehru Stadium, was marred by mismanagement and the group finished the race at Yerawada, which was the finishing point for an altogether different 10-km run as the race route had no markers or signboards.

Though the lead athlete and winner of last two marathon, Amol Boriwale, covered the 10-km in 40 minutes, he did not win. A tail-ender who made it to Nehru Stadium, the actual finishing point, by covering the 6.5 km in 80 minutes won the race.

"The marathon began at 7.30 am from Khandujibaba Chowk. In 20 minutes, I was leading at Seven Loves Chowk. From there, to reach Nehru Stadium I should have turned right. But a volunteer told us to take left," Boriwale, an archer of international repute who was sponsored by Sachin Tendulkar for para-archery world championship in 2011. So Boriwale ended up at Yerawada via Golibar Maidan, MG Road and Koregaon Park.

Fifteen other athletes followed him to end at Yerawada. The athletes realised the goof up only after another volunteer pointed out that they were on a wrong route. "I am 48 but completed the 10-km marathon in 40-plus minutes," said Lance Naik Prem Singh. He has been participating in the marathon since 2001 and had come first in the event in 2003 and second in 2004.

Boriwale said paraplegic athletes have been exceptional performers in marathons. His record time is 10 minutes and 10 seconds for 3 km. He said considering the fact that he was leading the race at Seven Loves Chowk, a km away from the acutal finishing point, he would have won the race for the third consecutive time.

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