Compound archery coach tests 'false positive' but team withdrawn from World Cup

The archers were to join the Olympic-bound recurve team at Delhi airport to catch a 2.50am flight to Amsterdam en route Guatemala City for the April 19-25 World Cup Stage I.

The eight-member compund team, consisting of the likes of Abhishek Verma, withdrew from the tournament, which was the first one since the coronavirus pandemic put an halt on all events- REUTERS

India's compound archers was left high and dry after the national federation on Saturday barred them from boarding the flight to Guatemala for the World Cup Stage 1 after their coach's "false positive" test report for COVID-19.

The Sonepat-based compound archers were to join the Olympic-bound recurve team at Delhi airport to catch a 2.50am flight to Amsterdam en route Guatemala City for the April 19-25 World Cup Stage I.

After hearing that compound team coach Gaurav Sharma had tested positive for COVID-19 at SAI, Sonepat on Thursday, the Archery Association of India decided not to allow them to join the recurve team.

The compound archers were left "stranded" on Karnal Bypass till late at night on Friday.

In a twist, the result of Sharma's latest test done on Saturday said the virus was "not detected". But, the compound archers have now been withdrawn from the tournament, the much-anticipated first event after the pandemic halted all events in March 2020.

"We cannot compromise on the safety of our recurve archers as they are slated to play in the Olympics in less than 100 days. As per the SOP, we had to isolate them (compound archers) who were in direct contact with the coach," AAI secretary general Pramod Chandurkar told PTI.

"Both the teams were to travel together and we did not want to take that one per cent chance. The American guidelines are very strict and if something happened then the full contingent would have suffered, putting the recurve archers Olympic preparation in jeopardy. We did not want to take any risk," he added.

Sharma said he did another test on Saturday at a private lab in Patiala which returned negative.

"I never had any symptoms and may have tested more than a dozen times but don't know how it had come 'false positive' at SAI," Sharma told PTI.

"Our team is one of the best sides in the world and we expected sure shot medals from Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan, Aman Saini and Jyothi Surekha. Now, who is now responsible for this? They had to suffer because of my false report."

The AAI secretary general, however, said they had to adhere to the guidelines.

"We could not do much about it and had to follow the protocols."

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A compound team official, however, narrated the harrowing experience as they were left stranded on the Karnal Bypass for more than two hours on Friday evening, waiting for the decision.

The bus had the eight-member compound team, including seasoned campaigners Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan and V Jyothi Surekha and three minors Pragati, Akshita and Sanchi Dhalla.

"It all happened around 7pm when we were approaching the Delhi border as they asked us to stop our journey and wait for the instruction," the official claimed.

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The official said they had immediately isolated the coach (Gaurav Sharma) after his report came positive one day before their journey to the national capital.

"But the recurve archers put pressure on the federation via Zoom call and threatened not to board the flight if the compound archers joined them (at the airport). The discussions continued and finally they did not allow the compound archers," he claimed.

"Despite taking the full two doses of vaccine (in Pune), they (recurve archers) all got scared of contracting the virus. It also showed a lack of unity in the team."

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He further claimed that the federation could have handled the matter better but there was complete lack of communication and they arranged their travel to their respective homes on their own in the middle of the night.

"Till now there has been no official communication, none from the federation spoke to the compound members. We got to know this personally around 9.30pm and had to make our won travel arrangements back home.

"We had three minors in the team and we all had to manage our travel back home on our own. Jyothi took a midnight flight to Hyderabad. It was a complete mess. They made it clear that the compound archers are of no priority for the federation.

"The archers offered to go on their own, by making their own bookings but the federation refused to listen," he said.

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