The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) may have stopped automatic qualifier Jeswin Aldrin from going to this week’s World Championships in the USA as he failed to repeat the performance in its inter-State Nationals in Chennai and in the trials after that but the world looks at things very differently.
Long jumper Aldrin crossed the World Athletics’ entry standard (8.22m) in the Federation Cup in April with 8.26m and also shocked national record holder M. Sreeshankar to take the gold (with wind-assisted 8.37m) but the AFI wanted him to be close to that at the recent inter-State Nationals, its main qualifier for the Worlds.
The 20-year-old, seventh in the World this year, could jump only 7.71m (qualifying round) and 7.51m (final) to finish sixth in Chennai. He was offered two trials, in Thiruvananthapuram where he came close (7.99m) and Patiala (7.93m) but the AFI did not clear him for the Worlds as he failed to achieve its target of 8.10m. A disappointed Aldrin is now on his way home to Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.
Perform before you go
The World Athletics offers athletes a one-year period to achieve its entry standard but the AFI does not believe in that. It has a perform-before-you-go policy.
“We are not World Athletics. We are India, we have to do what is best for India,” Adille Sumariwalla, the AFI president, told Sportstar.
“Because you may be in form six months or a year ago but may not be fit before going. We have had many such athletes, that is why,” he added.
Majority slipping in form
Surprisingly, the Worlds’ entry list – now available - reveals that more than 20 of the 32 long jumpers who will be in action in Oregon have been way below the Worlds entry standard in their last few meets.
The USA has been a dominant force in long jump with world record holders like Jesse Owens, Ralph Boston, Bob Beamon and Mike Powell. But Marquis Dendy, who finished 10 th with 7.87m at the recent US Championships, figures in the three-member American long jump bunch for the Worlds. The others are Steffin McCarter (2 nd at US Championships, 8.15m) and Will Williams (4 th, 8.07m).
Switzerland’s Simon Ehammer, this year’s outdoor world leader (8.45m in May), failed to cross 7.95m in his last two meets and Jianan Wang, one of the two Chinese entries, has done just one outdoor meet this season (7.67m). Even defending World champion Tajay Gayle (personal best 8.69m) has a best of 7.97m this year. But unlike Aldrin, they will all be in action in Oregon.
India will have Sreeshankar and Muhammed Anees at the Worlds and a third entry would have raised the profile of the sport while also offering top-class exposure to the young Aldrin.
There is also a wonderful rivalry between Sreeshankar and Aldrin, the two keep pushing each other in meets, and the battle between the two would have helped market Indian athletics better too.
Perhaps, it is time for the AFI to have a relook at its rules for the majors.