Officials stunned by Indian roller-skaters’ speed at Special Olympics World Games

Indians win 13 gold medals but suffer 14 disqualifications.

Members of the Indian roller-skating team in Abu Dhabi.   -  Stan Rayan

The Indian roller-skaters were shocked with the timings they recorded at the Special Olympics World Games here.

“Every Indian athlete was 10 seconds faster for a 100m round than the average timings they gave at home,” said Prabhat Sharma, a coach with the 26-member Indian roller-skating team here on Tuesday.

But in a Games where athletes are categorised based on the degree of their intellectual disability, the technical officials were not impressed. They were shocked too and the Indians suffered 14 disqualifications (DQ) in roller-skating.

“We had 14 DQs, that’s a very large number, all of them should have been gold medals,” said Sharma.

Yet, despite the heavy DQs, India had a rich haul of 49 medals, including 13 gold and 20 silver, in roller-skating with Harshad Gaonkar and Priya Kumari taking two yellows each.

Not surprisingly, roller-skating was the biggest contributor to India’s gold tally here. But it could have been even bigger. So, what exactly went wrong?

“The track here was very fast and so the athletes could not understand what was going on and they gave their best. The timings were faster on a large scale so they got disqualified,” explained Sharma.

“There is a rule that if an athlete is found cheating, he is disqualified. But we did not cheat, only it was a faster track.”

Coach clarifies

The coach explained that the Indians trained on a different kind of track and that was the reason for the faster timings here.

“This is a wooden track and our wheels are specifically meant to run on wooden tracks. So they were faster.

“We use a Kota stone hard track in India, it is more like marble, and that is a smaller 60m track with three turns. Here, this is a 100m track with only two turns, so things change.”

That, however, has not convinced the officials here.

India crossed the 200-medal mark in the Special Olympics World Games and had a total of 233 medals, including 60 gold and 83 silver, on Tuesday.

(The writer is in Abu Dhabi at the invitation of the UAE Government).

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