PCI move to delay national & state championships puts cloud on India’s Paralympics hopes
The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) has put on hold all national and state championships until 15 April following government directions to avoid large gatherings following the Coronavirus scare. The move has dismayed many para sportspersons.
The Coronavirus scare just ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics has cast a shadow over India’s chances in the games this year. India’s chances were rated high with many predicting that the para sportspersons would win 15 medals, five of them gold.
Now following the government directions banning mass gatherings in the wake of the Coronavirus scare, national and state championships have been put on hold until 15 April. The PCI was scheduled to host the national para-athletics championship in Mysuru from 26 to 28 March and the national swimming championship in Bengaluru from 28 March.
In a tweet, Deepa Malik, President, PCI, said: “As per Government of India advisory with regards to Travel and Epidemic Act, the PCI has decided to put on hold all national and state championships until 15 April 2020. All affiliated bodies of PCI have been directed to follow this decision with immediate effect”.
1 April is last qualifying date for Tokyo
The announcement was greeted with dismay by disabled athletes, who had to pay ₹ 2,000 to register for the championships. When asked about this, Malik simply said that the championships are on hold until government orders.
The other concern for the para athletes relates to the main Tokyo event as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has set 1 April as the last date for qualifying for the Paralympics.
The national championships are a good opportunity for newcomers to enter the Paralympics. This delay will affect their prospects. India has 13 quotas so far and we were hoping to make that 30. Naturally everyone is upset. – Sandeep Choudhary, Indian para athlete
Talk of postponing Games to 2022
There are widespread rumours that the IPC may postpone the Olympics and Paralympics. “A lot of qualifier events are being cancelled around the world”, points out Colonel Gaurav Datta, Chairperson, RFI Para Rowing Committee. “Twenty-one of the participating countries are affected by Coronavirus and the way it is spreading, there is cause for concern. There is talk of the Olympics being postponed to 2022”.
Para athlete Ekta Bhyan who has secured a spot in the club throw event in the Paralympics is tracking the developments closely. “There is still no clear word on this although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the Olympics will take place. We have all worked so hard and I am praying the Olympics won’t be cancelled. Hopefully they will just be postponed. It was going to be a good show for India this year”.
Para athlete and disability rights activist Pradeep Raj is hopeful that the IPC will take the right call by all the countries. “Maybe the IPC will give some consideration and extend the final date. The record holders are all through, but new players will certainly face a problem. With so many qualifying events called off, the Olympics should not be held as scheduled”.
Given the WHO’s move to declare a pandemic and the rising worry, the prospect of the Paralympics taking place on schedule certainly looks doubtful.
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