Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bengaluru, Jul 31:
Two days after being cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to return to international competition, Odisha’s star sprinter Dutee Chand is facing new hurdles en route to the Rio Olympics next year. Unfortunately though, the hurdles in her way have been posed by an organisation that should have gone out of the way to help her train in right earnest for the big event: the Athletic Federation of India (AFI).
AFI has invited the star sprinter to train at the NIS in Patiala, but with a rider – two actually. She has to train without the services of her coach N Ramesh and concentrate on an event that has never been her forte: the 4X400 relay race.
The AFI on Wednesday asked the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to include the 19-year-old sprinter in the national camp in Patiala but has indicated that her best chance of qualifying for the Rio Olympics is by being a part of the 4×400 metre relay squad rather than her pet events i.e, 100 and 200 metre sprint.
AFI president Adille Sumariwalla, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said that Dutee’s best chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics was in the women’s 4×400 metre relay event.
“Dutee can train with the women’s 4×400 metre relay campers under Yuri Ogorodnik. Our experts discussed the various options for Dutee’s roadmap for Rio. The qualifying marks for Rio Olympics for women’s 100m and 200m are 11.32 seconds and 23.20 seconds respectively and it may be out of her reach with just a year left since her personal bests in the two events are 11.62 seconds and 23.56 seconds respectively,” Sumariwala said. He, however, did not bother explaining why he thinks it would be ‘out of her reach’.
Besides, Dutee will be training without her coach N Ramesh who has been coaching her since 2012 at the P Gopichand badminton academy in Hyderabad. She would now be training under the Ukraine-born Yuri Ogorodnik, who was suspended after the 2011 doping scandal but reappointed this year.
The teen sprinter was reluctant to accept the AFI offers—to train without her coach N Ramesh and switch to 4×400 metre relay event—besides moving to Patiala from Hyderabad.
Sources close to Dutee said that she would consider running in the 4×400 metre relay event only after regaining full fitness under the training of her coach Ramesh. She has undergone tremendous mental trauma due to the ban on her for hyperandrogenism. She is recovering gradually after lifting of the ban and would prefer to train under the guidance of Ramesh in Hyderabad rather than moving to Patiala, the source added.
Dutee has mostly competed in the 100 and 200 meter print. She had run in the 400m once and finished a poor seventh. Keeping her past record in view, experts have wondered how AFI has recommended Dutee to compete in this category.
The 19-year-old athlete should be given an opportunity to run for 100m and then 200m, the experts demanded.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has come in support of the sprinter. Considering the scenario, it would be advisable to get Dutee trained under Ramesh, an official of SAI said.
“We would try to convince AFI officials regarding this. Dutee’s case is special. She has fought a long battle with the IAAF before returning to the mainstream. She deserves some concessions at this point in time. We will convince AFI that Dutee needs Ramesh at this juncture,” he added.
The AFI has meted out step-motherly treatment to Dutee since long as is evident from the fact that even after the lifting of the suspension, the federation had not given permission to Dutee for training at Patiala. The AFI thought of Dutee only after she complained to the sports ministry.
“And as in the case of Tintu Luka who trains in Kerala, Dutee can even train in 400m and force her way into the relay squad if she can come up with impressive timings,” another official of SAI said.
Dutee has plans to train at the US Olympic training centre at Chula Vista in California for which the sports ministry has assured her all necessary help. However, the AFI’s move may throw a spanner in the works.