Weekly bulletin on India’s preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics

Babita Kumari has qualified in the 55kg category for India. (Source: File)

Confusion over Babita’s berth

One wonders if Babita Kumari has been sleeping well the last few days. A week ago, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) decided to reinstate all those wrestlers who were suspended for consumption of banned drug meldonium. Babita got her Rio berth after Mongolian wrestler Sumiya E failed her dope test in the Asian qualifiers, where she had beaten the Indian in the semifinals. After But WADA revoked the suspension, United World Wrestling (UWW) re-allocated the place in the women’s draw of 53kg category to Sumiya. There were fears that it would result in Babita losing her spot but UWW confirmed on Saturday that all countries previously granted Olympic spots will not be impacted by the latest adjustment. However, it remains to be seen how the Olympic tournaments will now work out with more wrestlers competing than initially planned.

Foreign help for Vikas Krishan

He was the last Indian boxer to qualify for the Games but Vikas Krishan is now keen to ensure he makes the most of the days he has in hand before stepping into the ring in Rio. He returned from Venezuela last week where he monitored the performances of his potential opponents during the qualifying tournament for pro boxers. But instead of travelling abroad to train for the Olympics, Krishan has decided to practice at NIS Patiala under a foreign coach, most likely to be USA’s Willie Moses, considered to be among the best in the business and was formerly the coach of USA’s boxing team. Krishan had trained under him just before the final qualifying tournament and the short stint helped him tremendously.

There were apprehensions over the short-term appointment as the coach had demanded $10,000 (approx. Rs 6.5 lakh) for 15 days excluding his airfare, visa fee, insurance and stay. It is almost double of what the Sports Authority of India generally pays (the approved rate is $400 per day). But the proposal was approved under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme.

Caught in cross-fire

The only rower to have qualified for the Olympics, it seems, has lost the support of his federation. The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) is miffed that Dattu Bhokanal chose Army Rowing Node’s foreign coach Paul Mokha as his coach for the Games instead of national coach Ismail Baig. Dattu left Delhi on June 21 for Florida, where he will train with Mokha till July 26. From there, he will directly leave for Rio. This has miffed the RFI as well as Baig, who was with Dattu when he qualified for the Olympic in April.

The saga began when RFI and Army Rowing Node both submitted different proposals to SAI for Dattu’s training in the build up to the Olympics. Dattu met SAI director general Injetti Srinivas and, against RFI’s wishes, informed that he wanted Mokha to accompany him at the Olympics and not Baig. Since then, the RFI stopped its six-member team from participating in the World Cup III in Poland last month and World Rowing Tour in Austria. The tussle has more to do with the long-standing cold relations between the RFI and Army. Dattu’s explanation was Mokha stood by him when he suffered a back injury that almost ‘weeded him out of rowing’ and hence chose him over Baig, whose qualifications as rowing coach are the best in India. But RFI, clearly, is in no mood to buy his theory, calling Dattu’s decision as the ‘lowest point’ in Indian rowing.

Sejwal’s Rio hopes sink

From one water sport to other and the selection of Sajan Prakash over Sandeep Sejwal for the one spot India were handed in swimming has raised quite a few eyebrows. Sejwal was India’s best swimmer in the run-up to qualification on performance and points – the two key criteria for selection set by the Swimming Federation of India. Yet, the 2014 Asian Games medallist could not make the cut. But the SFI felt otherwise. Its secretary Kamlesh Nanavati, national coach Pradeep Kumar and president Digambar Kamat met last week and felt Prakash had been consistent with his performances, while Sandeep’s show in Hong Kong during the final qualifying tournament was not up to the mark. But SFI’s own system states otherwise. According to that, Sejwal had maximum points in 200m breaststroke (822 points) and 100m breaststroke (808). But what seems to have gone against Sejwal is the fact that Prakash had scored points in three events – 400m freestyle (798), 1500m freestyle (782) and 200m butterfly (785). This got his overall average above Sejwal’s and thus became eligible for the Rio spot.