Kerala HC asks Centre why was Chitra’s excluded from Indian squad

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Kochi, July 27 (IANS) The Kerala High Court on Thursday directed the Centre to explain why was state athlete P.U. Chitra left out of the national squad despite qualifying for next month’s World Athletics Championship.

The court was acting on a petition filed by her coach N.S. Sijin.

It asked the Centre to inform the court on Friday of the process of qualification, and if the Centre has the right to intervene in such matters, and if it had, then to explain which are the relevant provisions in the rules.

The court also asked the Centre to explain the source of funds of the various sports organisations.

Chitra had won gold in the women’s 1,500 metres event at the Asian Athletics Championships earlier this month with a time of four minutes and 17.92 seconds.

According to the selection criteria of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), an athlete can qualify for the World Championships either by meeting the qualification standards or by winning gold at continental events.

By that yardstick, Chitra had qualified for the World Championships to be held in London from August 4, although her timing at the Asian meet did not match the qualifying standard of 4:07.50 minutes.

Chitra’s exclusion from the Indian squad has caused a huge uproar, specially in her home state of Kerala with the athlete and her coach alleging that the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) denied her a ticket to London in order to include more officials.

Chitra also pointed out that Lakshmanan Govindnan, who won gold medals in the men’s 10,000m and 5,000m at the Asian meet, was selected for the World Championships in both these events even though his timings in Bhuvaneshwar were significantly slower than the qualifying marks.

Earlier this week, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed unhappiness at the manner in which Chitra was left out and wrote to the Centre.

He also announced that the state government will do everything it can to provide all the necessary help as Chitra comes from a very poor family background.

Chitra hails from Palakkad in Kerala. Her parents are daily wage-earning labourers who work in farmlands. On Thursday too, the two were seen engaged in manual labour, unaware of what was happening in the Kerala High Court.

The AFI officials have, meanwhile, vehemently defended their selection process.

AFI President Adil Sumariwalla posted an open letter on the federation’s website on Wednesday, clarifying that the decision was taken unanimously by the selection committee comprising of Olympians G.S. Randhawa, Paramjit Singh, Praveen Jolly and Uday Prabhu.

The AFI chief added that he was present at the selection meeting along with government observer and coach P.T. Usha, Dronacharya awardee J.S. Saini, deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair, coach Bahadur Singh and AFI Secretary C.K. Valson.

He pointed out that Chitra has struggled with her form since Asian Athletic Championships, posting a time of 4:28.87 minutes to finish second at the Inter-State Championships, held on July 15-18.

“Her performance dropped significantly after AAC 2017 at inter-state event and timing was not better than even Indian junior national record timing — not close enough to world qualifying mark at Inter-State, which was the last chance to achieve qualification mark. She was also beaten to second position,” Sumariwalla wrote.

Usha said that Chitra was not putting up consistent performances, and added that she felt sad that Chitra was left out.

“A gold medallist at the Asian Championships is bound to get entry to the World Championship, subject to the decision of the federation. I am not happy that Chithra and two others are not in the team. However, we must understand that Chitra’s performance was way below the qualifying standards,” the former star athlete told the media in Kozhikode on Wednesday.

“As an observer, I did tell them that Chitra was a young athlete and that the World Championships will be a good exposure for her. However, Chitra’s current score is not even in the best 200. So on what basis can I refute the selection committee? The committee was of the opinion that Chitra wasn’t consistent enough,” Usha added.

–IANS

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