Sudha ready for Worlds, but AFI coach rules out participation

Despite her name being included in the list published by the IAAF, deputy national coach. Radhakrishnan Nair said Sudha will not be part of the team participating in the World Championships in London.

Sudha was among the three athletes who did not figure in the original 24-member squad selected by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) despite winning gold in the recent Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar.   -  PTI

The controversy surrounding the selection of Indian team for the World Championships took a dramatic turn on Sunday, with the seasoned 3000m steeplechaser Sudha Singh finding her name in the IAAF entry list but the AFI ruling out her participation in the global event.

Sudha was among the three athletes who did not figure in the original 24-member squad selected by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) despite winning gold in the recent Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar.

But her name surprisingly figured among the Indian participants in the entry list issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Saturday night.

“I just got to know that I am in the World Championships entry list. I am not yet being told by anybody from the AFI whether I have been included in the team or not. But I am ready to run in London,” said Sudha, who represented the country in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, besides the 2015 World Championships.

“I have my visa ready and so just as the AFI tells me about my participation in World Championships, I will be immediately ready to fly to London. My name was not originally included in the squad (on July 23) but I remained hopeful (that I may be included later) and so I did not take the legal route (like what P. U. Chitra did),” she added.

But the AFI has other ideas and deputy national coach Radhakrishnan Nair, who is already in London with most of the Indian participants, said Sudha is not taking part in the championships.

“No, she is not taking part in the World Championships,” said Nair, when asked whether Sudha will run in the women’s 3000m steeplechase event in the World Championships.

It is still not clear whether the AFI included Sudha’s name after the announcement of the 24-member squad on July 23 or her name was in the IAAF entry list due to a goof-up by the federation officials.

None of the AFI officials were coming out on record to offer any reason why Sudha’s name is there in the IAAF entry list for women’s 3000m steeplechase.

But an AFI source, who did not want to be quoted, said that it could be a case of an “error” committed by some officials who might not have deleted Sudha’s name from the final entry done online.

“It is an online entry and each country’s federation gets a password from the IAAF to enter the names of their athletes.

Each federation makes an initial entry which is usually a big number including those who are close to qualifying. Then the federation will make a final entry, deleting/dropping those who do not make it to the squad,” the source said.

“May be, the AFI did not delete Sudha’s name while making the final entry and that’s why her name is there in the IAAF list. It could be an error or mistake on the part of some AFI officials.”

The latest drama unfolded after P. U. Chitra, the women’s 1500m winner in the Asian Championships, filed a writ petition before the Kerala High Court, challenging non-inclusion of her name in the Indian team despite winning the continental event.

Winners of the Asian Championships qualify for the world event but the IAAF rules clearly stated that the national federation has within its powers not to send the winner of the continental event.

The High Court on Friday ordered the AFI to include Chitra in the Indian team. With the Sports Ministry also advising the AFI to include Chitra, the national federation made a request to the IAAF to do so. The ball is now in the court of the IAAF whether to include Chitra or not.

If the IAAF accepts the AFI’s request to include Chitra, which at this late stage is unlikely to happen, she will immediately fly to London as her visa is ready and currently with the AFI.

Sudha, Chitra and Ajoy Kumar Saroj (who won men’s 1500m gold in Asian Championships) were left out of the Indian squad on the ground that their performances were far off from the IAAF qualifying standards and even worse than the junior national records.

Sudha and Ajoy did not take the legal route but there was a surprise in store when the IAAF released the entry list just before midnight IST on Saturday. Sudha’s name was found as the 23rd Indian among 26 participants from the country.

The AFI had on Saturday accepted the IAAF’s invite of a quota entry to sprinter Dutee Chand to fill up the targeted number of 56 runners for women’s 100m dash. Dutee’s entry had made the number of Indian participants to 25 but Sudha’s inclusion (in the IAAF list) has now made it 26.

Dutee has also got her visa ready and she is expected to fly to London in a day or two.

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