Indian sports has come a long way since the debacle of Rio 2016. The SAI, sports ministry and federations such as those of shooting, athletics, boxing and cycling have led the way in demonstrating how the sporting scenario of the country can improve if those at the helm show sincerity towards their job.
Sadly however the same cannot be said about certain federations who are still stuck in the power-at-any-cost days of the past.
The Archery Association of India (AAI) was suspended by World Archery in August 2019. This was after two rival factions in the AAI decided to hold two separate elections, one in Chandigarh, the other in Delhi, which went against international guidelines.
Indian archers had to compete under the Olympic flag at the Asian Archery Championships and could not even send a team at the South Asian Games (SAG) 2019, which meant Bangladesh winning all the Golds at the latter event.
Despite these problems, Deepika Kumari won the Olympic quota at the Asian Championships and the Men’s Recurve Team won the Silver at the World Championships. They will get a chance to compete under the Indian flag at Tokyo provided the federation cleans up it’s act. The fresh AAI elections are going to be held on 18th January.
Archery in India has a lot of potential, with Deepika having been World No.1, Komalika Bari winning the World Youth Archery Championships in 2019 and Indian archers regularly featuring on the podium at the Archery World Championships.
Hence it is a pity that India underachieves at the Olympic level, which has more to do with the apathy of the AAI top brass rather than the ability of the archers.
As fans we hope that those who get elected show as much passion towards revitalising the sport as they’ve shown for power and politics.
Fouaad Mirza became the first Indian rider in twenty years to make it to the Olympics, a terrific achievement. But the same cannot be said about the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI). The federation was suspended in August 2019 by the IOA for non-implementation of the National Sports Development Code. However the sports ministry extended the deadline for de-recognition till March 31st this year.
It is hoped the federation is more serious this time, because the truth is that Mirza’s qualification and Asian Games heroics are no thanks to the EFI. Mirza has been sponsored by businessman Jitendra Virwani and has credited only Virwani and not the federation in interviews . The EFI’s lack of vision can be seen from the fact that no Indian team was sent to the Olympic qualifiers held in France.
India had a good chance to qualify the eventing team for the Olympics, but the EFI’s indifference meant that Thailand and China, who had finished behind India at the Asiad, qualified instead. No Indian team was sent to the inaugural Asian Equestrian Championships held in December 2019 either.
Clearly the EFI bosses (and those of other errant federations) should get off their high horse, quit foaling around and bring some stability to the sport.
Taekwondo and Karate
The story is similar in both these contact sports. Both the Taekwondo Federation of India (TFI) and the Karate Association of India (KAI) have been disaffiliated by their respective world bodies. In both, the sport is being managed by an ad hoc committee set up by the IOA. The incompetence of the TFI can be seen from the fact that in 2018, the federation and IOA sent names for Asian Games participation without conducting trials. Then in July that year, the Delhi High Court had to come out with a definitive response to the unfair treatment meted to top taekwondo players.
The TFI has been replaced by another entity called India Taekwondo, which was recognised by the World Taekwondo (WT) federation in December 2019 . The same will likely happen in karate.
The karatekas were not allowed to compete at the SAG 2019 while the taekwondo players were luckier when the WT intervened on their behalf and allowed them to participate. That they then went on to win 26 medals is thus all the more creditable.
The sports ministry has been vocal about wishing to see India in the top ten at the 2028 Olympics. One of the first steps towards that goal is to ensure basic governance in all affiliated sports federations.
In a more positive development though, Hockey India is planning to suspend ten state associations in July .These suspensions are in line with the ‘one state, one unit’ policy of the IOA as per the Lodha committee guidelines. If executed properly, this decision will help to streamline administration of the sport. It is hoped that the Equestrian and other federations also take up such reforms.