The Rio Olympics has concluded amidst cheers and chaos, breaking records and breaking few hearts but raking many thoughts, yet the aftermath of the Rio fervor refuses to relinquish anytime soon, at least in India! And why not? It has stoked a fetish for other streams of sports as a possible reality in a cricket gripped nation and the thunderous support and applause received by the Indian Olympians was for all to see and believe.
Perhaps Indians are all set for an image makeover as we today realize, refuse and refute the regressive rephrasing of Indian misery all over again, as we have far too long been portrayed as the slumdogs who are atrociously casteist, misogynistic, superstitious snake charmers who are a puny intolerant nation with too much diversity to handle. The suspension of Narsing Yadav at the threshold of the arena, that too after all the clearances from both the organizers and the Indian authorities was perhaps a deliberate attempt to the above effect.
The western world that made demeaning documentaries of our daughters were perhaps silenced out with the new spree of ‘never say die’ spirited daughters, be it Deepa Karmakar, Deepika Kumari, Saakshi or Sindhu for whom the nation cheered chivalrously, not that we have forgotten our erstwhile PT Usha and Karnam Malleshwari, Ashwini Nacchappa, Anju Bobby George, Mary Kom followed by Sania and Saina Nehwals. Olympics for Indians was always something they looked forward to, blame it on Salman Khan the controversial IOA ambassador or the social media madness but the attention and support it received this time was phenomenal.
While a true sportsman strides past a win or a loss with the same poise, our responses or reactions is what makes them winners or losers. This was best reiterated with our overwhelming response and reception of our medalists so much that nobody knew or wanted to know who the gold medalists were.
But amidst all these jubilant celebrations, the news about O.P.Jaisha fainting at the finish line in Rio Olympics with apparently no Indian officials around came as a shocking embarrassment to the whole nation.
Swiftly enough the dehydrated destitution of India in its inability to provide its players with basics, made bold headlines.
One might conclude as bad as it sounds given the contrasting situations where on one hand, the chief ministers of the Telugu states vied to chauffer off the winning passenger into their hall of fames, thrusting crores of rupees into her kitty while on the other hand a humble yet gritty 33year old OP Jaisha who had to once swallow and stomach mud to survive and knock at many doors to get sponsors for her shoes and sports gear was left into her own unceremonious bewilderment after losing at the Olympics with not much support from her highly literate home state where she struggled for a day’s meal.
While it is no secret that our sports authorities have been neck deep with multi layered nepotism and corruption where funds allocated for the training facilities do not often see its rightful implementation on ground and players end up bearing the brunt of ill treatment at the hands of dictatorial authorities.
But Jaisha’s serious allegation that she was left to die during the marathon where the Athlete Federation Of India did not offer her something as basic as water and that the Indian counters in the stretch of the marathon were empty, that eventually led to her collapsing and administration of glucose, must be investigated from both perspectives.
The 64 officials who went to Rio deserve no mercy if they are found guilty and should be sacked if they were having fun at the cost of the years of preparations of our Olympians.
But the national record holder in marathon who has won several accolades in the past sporting events in various categories, who in the past has claimed that her relations with the coach Dr.Nikolei Snesarei were good and training with him has benefited and improved her is today airing her dissent that she was forced into this marathon which is not her expertise, which seems more like an emotional spurt that defies responsibility.
Fitness and marathon training takes years of practice and dedication. It is not something that can churn results overnight. During these training sessions, it is clearly marked as to how many times an athlete needs a hydration/energy break and how much can players can actually sustain? Only after tested ascertainments can the coach or the sports authorities finally pitch a candidate as their country’s representative.
If there is any discrepancies with the claims of Jaisha as against what the AFI authorities are claiming then whoever is at fault should be dealt with seriously.
A player can choose if he or she needs personalized drinks (energy supplements like honey, glucose etc) during the marathon which the AFI claim she had refused, but then again Jaisha in her media interviews claims it was her coach who had refused and that she was not even aware that her coach had refused it. It is because of these gaps that there was a gap of 35 minutes between the gold medalist and Jaisha, to reach the winning point.
Now it is hard to believe that a seasoned veteran runner like Jaisha who has won many medals, who participated in various countries did not ascertain her next day’s plan with the coach or the authorities.
But if it has anything to do with red-tape of hiring coaches just to keep up with some standard courtesies of hiring veterans although they do not add much value then it should seriously be looked into. But in this case it looks like there were not two but three differing opinions of the player, coach and officials.
Hydration is crucial during the event, but it is the stamina and sustaining ability that is built up over the gruesome practice sessions that matters at the end of the day, she could have definitely used the water from the hydration stations provided at prescribed intervals by the organizers which is the regular norm at least in the spirit of sportsmanship.
The allegations that the AFI team was missing from the scene leaving empty water kiosks should be investigated as per her suggestion by viewing the video recordings of the event so that truth will emerge for all to see.
But surely temperatures in Rio De Janeiro ranges between 18degrees in the morning to 26degrees in the afternoon in the mid-winter month of August and that she said she was left to die in 45degrees temperature is a little premature. Also her fellow marathoner Kavitha Raut confirms that she had no such issues, one can easily abandon it as a statement under pressure but then the question is why didn’t she talk when she had to?
Our sports authorities are no holy cows and are often carried over by their spurt of power and arrogance when they deal with sportspersons coming from humble backgrounds but taking home a medal is always their prime target and it is unlikely that they would compromise on something as basic as water. They have let her down by not being present when she needed them, there might have been differences between authorities and the players and coaches as it is reported that even in the past this coach had brazenly offered to resign owing to a disagreement with the authorities which was sorted out by the SAI(Sports Authority Of India).
Fortunately and unfortunately the matter is getting discussed over national media about a sensitive matter that could have been solved with timely escalations amongst the right people like how Narsing Yadav got the PMO to intervene over his doping trap that could save us from the humiliation on a foreign shore about our shortcomings.
Given the current media trend where it is almost a fashionable rage to pitch upon poor backgrounds, helpless faces to portray them as a “poor little puny people of INdia” that invigorates the MSM to lock their targets of attack in whichever direction they please, the responsibility in the interest of sports and sportsmanship lies equally upon all _the management, the players and the coaches.
The many shortcomings in the sports arena in India is a direct result of decades of dilapidated conditions prevalent amidst the thick of authorities that can be rectified by shaking up the system infested with obsolete rules by improvising aids, facilities and incentives, rising with dynamic attitudes and an overall positive environment and an equally important unbiased responsible response from us the public without succumbing to knee jerk reactions instigated with victimized faces.
But given our high spirits, hyper emotions and an overzealous whelm with overloaded information, today one may end up consuming more than one can actually take especially when an issue is given a political dimension. Be it our dismay or celebration or classification we never tire of casting aspersions or apprehensions about a given matter without bothering much to hear the other side of the story.
The matter is under investigation where Jaisha and the AFI have both put across their views and concerns, while we hope that people who are raining spendthrift fortunes at the already accomplished players may take some time and consider watering the drained aspirants too while the AFI can focus on improving the overall fitness of their players and the Government focus on decent compensation for all the players who represent India in acknowledgement of their years of efforts.