Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

OP Jaisha victim of India’s Sport System; no water or refreshments present at Indian counter

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We live in a nation were athletes apologize to the nation for not winning a medal even when they give their 100% performance while our ministers who can’t spell the names of our athletes continue to pay little attention for the upliftment of facilities for the athletes. Shameful would be an  understatement to the treatment meted out to OP Jaisha- who is the national record holder in the marathon. While the officials in India are going gaga over PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik’s historic achievement they are least about the marathon runner who fainted and was unconscious for 3 hours.

Empty Indian stands: Where were the officials?

With so many ministers and supports staff going to Rio on the pretext of supporting the Indian contingent, one would have thought to see a mini India wherever Indian athletes were competing but such was not the case for Jaisha. The 33 year old ran in the scorching heat of 42 degrees and while runners from other countries were provided water and basic necessities like glucose biscuits and water sponges by their respective countries after a interval of 2 km Jaisha had to rely on the stalls provided by the organizers which were at an interval of 8 kms. “It was very hot there. The competition was at 9am, I ran in scorching heat. There was no water for us, neither recovery drinks nor food. Only once in 8kms did we get water (from the Rio organisers) which did not help at all. All the countries had their stalls at every 2kms but our country’s stall was empty,” said Jaisha who finished 89th in Rio Olympics women’s marathon event with a below-par timing of 2:47:19.

“I thought I would die”: Jaisha

As per the regulations of the IAAF, it is the duty of the federation and coach to deploy officials with the necessary refreshments, as an athlete can’t consume refreshments from desks of other contingents as it may lead to disqualification. So the Indian runners had to rely only on the refreshments provided by the organisers which, according to the runner, lasted only 550m.
“We are supposed to be given drinks by our technical officials, it’s the rule. We cannot take water from any other team. I saw the Indian board there but there was nothing. I had a lot of problem, I fainted after the race. I was administered glucose, I thought I would die,” she recalled.

National record holder Jaisha, bronze medalist in the 5,000m and 1,500m respectively at the 2006 and 2014 Asiads in Doha and Incheon, ended up 89th after finishing the race in two hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds.

The sad part is that this is not a one off incident. Earlier Dipa Karmarkar’s physiotherapist had been denied to accompany her to Rio  on the grounds that it would be wasteful(but it was totally agreeable to send many of the ministers and officials to “support” India), but only when the 23 year old performed the leap of death and stormed into the Vault final did the Sports Authority of India wake up and rushed her physio to Rio.

Despite all the odds and hurdles OP Jaisha completed the marathon.

With such a sorry state of affairs  in the Indian Sporting System it is indeed a miracle we win any medals at all. The plight of Jaisha and other athletes bring up the question that do the ministers or the sports authorities have any right at all to claim success behind an athlete?

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