Top Indian discus thrower Vikas Gowda has been asked by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to appear in a trial later this week if he wants to defend his title in next month’s Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar.
Gowda, who won a gold in discus throw in the last edition in 2015 in Wuhan, China, and top 110m hurdler Siddhanth Thingalaya were among a few foreign-based Indian athletes who have been summoned for a trial at NIS Patiala on June 25-26, failing which they will be barred from the July 6-9 continental event.
AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said today that the federation will act tough this time after a few athletes did not give a correct picture of their fitness and performance level in the run-up to the Rio Olympics where they were nowhere near their best.
“We are very clear after Rio Olympics that we will strictly monitor the fitness and performance level of these foreign-based athletes and those who train outside national camps,” Sumariwalla said at a press conference ahead of the Asian Championships.
“So, we have told the likes of Gowda and Siddhant to come for a trial at the NIS Patiala on June 25 and 26. The selection committee will see their performance and decide whether they can be selected for the Asian Championships or not. If they don’t come, then they will not be considered for selection at all,” he added.
The Indian team for the championships will be announced next week. AFI recently had issued a circular, stating that all those athletes who skipped the national championships, will not be allowed to take part in either the Asian Championships or World Championships in London in August.
Also, the likes of woman discus thrower Seema Antil have been told to join the national camps or else forget about participating in Asian or World Championships.
A few months before the Rio Olympics, the AFI came to know that Gowda had a shoulder injury and he had apparently told the federation that it was a minor one.
Gowda, who will turn 34 on July 5, finished a disappointing 28th in the qualification round in the Rio Olympics with a below-par 58.99m effort. Gowda, who also won a gold in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, has a personal best of 66.28m.
Asked about claims by Thingalaya that he has qualified for the World Championships in a recent meet in the United States, Sumariwalla said, “We will check and verify the result. We are going to ask the IAAF about it, whether he can be considered to have qualified for World Championships.
“But, it is better if he comes for the trial on June 25-26 at NIS Patiala and then take part in the Asian Championships and from there qualify for the World Championships,” Sumariwalla said.
The gold medal winners in the 42 events at the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar will automatically qualify for the World Championships.
Sumariwalla, also a member of the powerful IAAF Council, said that he would prefer hosting a Junior World Championships than staging a Senior World Championships in India.
“A senior World Championships will cost you at least USD 500 million and we have two or three athletes who can win a medal. We have some world class athletes but only two or three who can win medals,” Sumariwalla said in the presence of athletics legends Anju Bobby George, P T Usha, Shiny Wilson, and a host of Odisha government officials.
“So, no point in spending so much money in a senior World Championships while we are not winning many medals. I would prefer to host a junior World Championships which is of much smaller scale, and where we can have medal winners.”
Sumariwalla also revealed that the Asian Athletics Association will consider ways to tackle the issue of lack of participation of top athletes in the Asian Championships, in its executive council meeting on July 4 and the Congress on July 5 in Bhubaneswar.
A lot of top athletes skipped the Asian Athletics Championships as it is always held a few months ahead of the World Championships.
“This is on the agenda. We are going to discuss how to ensure participation of top athletes in Asian Championships.
Whether we can make a rule that those who do not take part in Asian Championships will not be allowed to participate in World Championships is something the AAA will look into,” said Sumariwalla.
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