Sreeshankar and Irfan given go-ahead for Olympics

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Friday decided against withdrawing the entries of long jumper Murali Sreeshankar and 20km race walker KT Irfan from the Tokyo Olympics.

The AFI’s Selection Committee arrived at the decision following an emergency meeting.

In a last-minute fitness trial on July 21, Sreeshankar had jumped 7.48m with the second-best jump coming at 7.33m. The 22-year-old had bagged qualification for the Olympics with a personal best of 8.26m, bettering his own national record at the Federation Cup in Patiala in March this year.

Irfan, on the other hand, had qualified for the Olympics in March 2019 during the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan. He last competed in March in the Race Walking National Championships in Ranchi, unable to finish the race. In May, he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and made recovery from it.

Despite strong opinions that the two athletes should be withdrawn after they under-performed in the trials in Bengaluru, the committee considered that the trials were called only to assess fitness and not form. The narrative meant that the meeting arrived at the unanimous decision to not pull the two athletes out of the squad.

“The selectors were of the view that athletes, especially those who meet qualification standards early, need to compete in the final selection trial and show their performance,” said the AFI President AdilleSumariwalla in a statement.

Tokyo will be Irfan’s second appearance at the Olympics after finishing 10th in 2012 London Olympics. For Sreeshankar, it will be his first Olympics outing.

Sumariwalla added that the coaches of both athletes had been spoken to about the lacklustre form in the trials.

“The coaches have promised that their respective athletes would give their best in Tokyo. Sreeshankar’s father and coach have assured of good performance from his athlete. If athletes do not perform well in the Olympics, we will take action against them.”

He also said that the committee had recommended a National Championship to be held ahead of all major events and that athletes would need to perform in that selection meet.

The track and field events at the Tokyo Olympics will commence on July 30.