Adille Sumariwalla. File Photo

Adille Sumariwalla. File Photo

The Athletics Federation of India’s guidelines to select the Indian team for next year’s Paris Olympics, released on Wednesday, has a rule which says that “qualification standards achieved in any recognised competition will be considered for the purpose of selection only if the athlete is sent by the AFI to participate in such competitions.”

The federation has not explained why it has brought in this rule… perhaps it wants to ensure that its athletes compete in quality meets or just to keep a closer watch on its stars. But it does raise the question: will the federation fund the trip?

“All such athletes will already be a part of ACTC (annual calendar for training and competition) or TOPS (Target Olympic Podium scheme; both schemes are funded by the Government),” Adille Sumariwalla, the AFI president, told The Hindu.

Does it mean that performances of athletes who are not in ACTC or TOPS will not be considered for Olympic selection if they achieve the entry standards in international meets?

“If they are in rankings they will be covered by one of the above schemes,” explained the AFI chief.

However, there is no clarity on whether the AFI will fund the trips of athletes who don’t come under ACTC or TOPS.

LOWER CATEGORY MEETS

Since India does not host any quality international meet and since many of the country’s prominent national championships fall under the ‘F’ category (only Inter-State Nationals came under ‘B’ category this year; Federation Cup, National Open and National Games were all under ‘F’) which offer fewer world ranking points, there will be a rush to compete in international competitions to pick up valuable points to qualify for the Olympics through the world rankings route before the qualification doors close.

Many have come up with impressive performances at the last minute and have qualified for the majors earlier. Many promising athletes have the support of major corporate houses which also fund them for international meets and it would be unfair if the AFI decides to control who can travel and who cannot.

The TOPS lists (core and development groups), in the Sports Authority of India’s website (surprisingly, it is undated), does not have athletes like Muhammed Anees, the National Games champion who is fourth in the Indian long jump’s all-time list with 8.15m.

Further clarifications will make life easier for athletes.

16TH PLACE BENCHMARK FOR PARIS

The AFI’s guidelines for the Paris Olympics also says that athletes have to achieve at least the 16th-place performance of the last Olympics (Tokyo 2021) apart from achieving the qualification standard (or qualifying through the rankings route) to be considered for selection.



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