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World Championship: Sudha ready for Worlds, but AFI coach rules out participation

The controversy surrounding the selection of Indian team for the World Championships took a dramatic turn today with the seasoned 3000m steeplechaser Sudha Singh finding her name in the entry list of the IAAF but the AFI ruling out her participation in the global event.

Sudha was among the three athletes who did not figure in the original 24-member squad selected by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) despite winning gold in the recent Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar.

But her name surprisingly figured among the Indian participants in the entry list issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) late last night.

“I just got to know that I am in the World Championships entry list. I am not yet being told by anybody from the AFI whether I have been included in the team or not. But I am ready to run in London,” Sudha told PTI from her training base in Dharamsala.

“I have my visa ready and so just as the AFI tells me about my participation in World Championships, I will be immediately ready to fly to London. My name was not originally included in the squad (on July 23) but I remained hopeful (that I may be included later) and so I did not take the legal route (like what P U Chitra did),” said Sudha, who represented the country in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, besides the 2015 World Championships.

But the AFI has other ideas and deputy national coach Radhakrishnan Nair, who is already in London with most of the Indian participants, said Sudha is not taking part in the championships.

“No, she is not taking part in the World Championships,” Nair told PTI when asked whether Sudha will run in the women’s 3000m steeplechase event in the World Championships.

It is still not clear whether the AFI included Sudha’s name after the announcement of the 24-member squad on July 23 or her name was in the IAAF entry list due to a goof-up by the federation officials.

None of the AFI officials were coming out on record to offer any reason why Sudha’s name is there in the IAAF entry list for women’s 3000m steeplechase.

But an AFI source, who did not want to be quoted, said that it could be a case of an “error” committed by some officials who might not have deleted Sudha’s name from the final entry done online.

“It is an online entry and each country’s federation gets a password from the IAAF to enter the names of their athletes. Each federation makes an initial entry which is usually a big number including those who are close to qualifying. Then the federation will make a final entry, deleting/dropping those who do not make it to the squad,” the source said.

“May be, the AFI did not delete Sudha’s name while making the final entry and that’s why her name is there in the IAAF list. It could be an error or mistake on the part of some AFI officials.”

Sudha, Chitra and Ajoy Kumar Saroj (who won men’s 1500m gold in Asian Championships) were left out of the Indian squad on the ground that their performances were far off from the IAAF qualifying standards and even worse than the junior national records.

Sudha and Ajoy did not take the legal route but there was a surprise in store when the IAAF released the entry list just before midnight IST on Saturday. Sudha’s name was found as the 23rd Indian among 26 participants from the country.

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