Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Olympic Heroes not included in Queen’s Baton Relay

Athens Olympics silver medalist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games hero Samaresh Jung have not been included in the elite list of 12 Indian athletes who will form part of the Queen's Baton Relay to be held in London on October 29.

2010 Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi announced the names of 12 athletes who have been cleared by the government, but these two names were not there.

Another notable name missing is that of 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medalist Leander Paes. But official sources said the government has been unable to contact Leander. "His name has been cleared by the government so even if he lands in London a day before, he will be part of the run," said a source in the Organizing Committee.

"I have no clue about this. I am presently training in the US, but I have not been contacted at all," said Rathore.

The list of 12 was finally cleared by the sports ministry, but who vetted the names is a matter of intrigue. Surely, the inclusion of former Asian squash champion Misha Grewal ahead of Rathore and Jung is jarring.

While the list of officials who will go on the jamboree was not made public, it is believed close to 25 names have been cleared.

In fact, Jung told on Friday. "These things really don't surprise me. If I start worrying about why I am not included in a list of athletes who will go for the baton run, I will not be able to focus on my shooting. All the same, I am surprised why I am not there," said Jung.

At the last Commonwealth Games in 2006 at Melbourne, where 71 countries competed, Jung claimed five gold medals, one silver and one bronze. So there was little debate when he was finally named the 'Most Outstanding Athlete' in Melbourne and picked for the David Dixon Award. More than not being picked for the Queen's Baton Relay, what irks Jung is how no foreign pistol shooting coach has still been hired. "After the Beijing Olympics, we are still to get a foreign coach. I shoot at the national camps or train on my own in Delhi," said Jung.

Perhaps, sports minister MS Gill will do well to find out how this faux pas happened where Rathore and Jung have been left out. After all, after the minister met Suresh Kalmadi, the IOA boss and OC chairman has changed his stand towards Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper.

"Don't ask about it (Hooper controversy) now. We want to sort out matters through talks. We don't want any more confrontation. Hopefully, we will sort out our concerns when I meet (Mike) Fennell in London," said Kalmadi.

Meanwhile, besides Bindra, the other baton bearers who will be present at the Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria Memorial will be being Olympics bronze medallists Vijender Kumar and Sushil Kumar, 1958 Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Milkha Singh and Olympian Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, 1980 All-England badminton champion Prakash Padukone, India's World Cup winning cricket captain Kapil Dev, 2000 Olympic Games bronze medal winning weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, tennis ace Sania Mirza, the world's most capped hockey player Dilip Tirkey. India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia will also fly to England after his team East Bengal cleared him to participate in the Relay.

Kalmadi said the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay marks a significant milestone for Delhi 2010. "As the Baton begins its journey of 1, 90,000km across member nations and territories of the Commonwealth Games Federation over 340 days, it will touch the lives of millions of people," he said.

"The Queen's Baton Relay will bind the people of the Commonwealth as one, spreading the message of peace, goodwill and the joy of sport," he said. "It will also tell them about the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the glorious heritage of the wonderful city and the amazing potential of India as a great destination for tourism and economic investment."