Athletes rue logistics in lead up to National Para Athletics Championship

The lead-up for the 19th National Para Athletics Championship, a qualification event for Tokyo 2020, is set to begin in Bengaluru from Wednesday has been far from smooth.

Sree Kanteerava Stadium will be one of the two venues for the National Para Athletics Championship.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The 19th National Para Athletics Championship is set to begin here on Wednesday. Events will be held at two venues – the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in the heart of the city and Vidyanagar Stadium on the outskirts – over three days, and will see athletes from 27 states and union territories participate.

But the lead-up has been far from smooth. The championship, which is a qualification event for Tokyo 2020, was initially scheduled to be held in Chennai, but was shifted at short notice, jeopardising athletes’ preparation.

The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), after initially asking athletes to make their own arrangements for accommodation, have seemingly acted now, promising hotels within 2kms vicinity of the Kanteerava Stadium.

“We had all reached Chennai and then forced to make plans again to reach Bengaluru,” said Nidhi Mishra, a 2018 Para Asian Games bronze medallist in discus throw. “It is not safe in these times of a pandemic.”

“Now I have received a message [about hotels being provided] and it is a big relief. But forget the extra money and time [we had to spend]. What about the mental stress? There can be no compensation for that.”

Jeetu Sawant, another athlete, said that she incurred significant monetary loss in rescheduling her flights and the anxiety the whole episode caused was very much avoidable.

Satyanarayana, the Bengaluru-based chairman of PCI’s Technical Committee, said that he had done as much as he could.

“The shift was last minute because of elections in Tamil Nadu. But on Tuesday we decided to accommodate athletes within 2km of the Kanteerava stadium. We will also provide transport between venues and food. Private foundations have done arrangements for their athletes but we want to ensure that others aren’t left out.”

“We are also requesting athletes to not crowd the stadium, and leave immediately after their events because of COVID-19 protocols,” Satyanarayana added.

Elite athletes like Rio gold medallist T. Mariyappan (high jump T 42) and Sandeep Chaudhary (world record holder in Javelin F 44 category) are among the 900 set to participate.