AFI raises the bar; Wants fewer participants and more quality during the athletics nationals

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has made it tougher for aspirants to get a ticket for the nationals

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

The coronavirus pandemic is set to leave its mark on the upcoming national athletics competitions as the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) have decided to raise the qualifying benchmark for both senior and junior events to reduce the number of participants.

With fewer athletes, it will be easier for AFI to stick to the Covid-19 guidelines as prescribed by the Union Ministry of Sports.

This decision was taken by a high-power committee as a preventive measure without compromising the standard of the meet. But this step is temporary and will be revised if the situation improves.

"The Entry Standard & Events to be organised will be assessed from time to time till the situation becomes normal," read the AFI circular.

Adille Sumariwalla, President of AFI, reasoned that the protection of athletes remains a priority and so this was the best way forward.

"This is the Olympic year and we want the standard of competition high. At the same time, we would not want to risk the athletes' health. We have made the entry standard tougher so that there is high quality but at the same time low turnout. This was done after a lot of deliberation and we went into details of each event," he said to The New Indian Express.

"Our aim was to give the Olympic hopefuls to compete but we don't want too many people. So far, all other games had Covid cases but despite athletics being the largest team we have managed to not have it. Protection of our athletes is our number one priority," he added.

Neeraj Chopra with the Indian flag

However, the number of days of competition would remain the same.

A detailed set of instructions is being prepared by the federation which would explain in detail how athletes will be managed during the event.

"We will not have as many heats and that will allow us to clear the competition arena before allowing the next set of players along with their kit. We will have one event at a time. We send athletes one by one. The idea is to not crowd the competition arena before and after the event."

Moreover, all participants must have a Covid negative certificate to participate in the nationals.

"I was the one who has been urging the government to give the jab to our athletes who are likely to qualify or have qualified," expressed the official who wants ample competitive and training time for Olympic hopefuls.

The junior Fed Cup scheduled on January 15-17 could be the first event where the new qualifying standard will be implemented.

Find the revised entry standards here.