How three foreign judges took health risks to help Indian walkers qualify for Olympics


Three Indians certified for the Tokyo Olympics finally week’s Race Walking Nationals in Ranchi. They ought to thank three worldwide judges, the quantity wanted for an occasion to be recognised, for taking a health danger by hopping onto a number of flights, trains and present process Covid-19 assessments to attain Ranchi.

A Slovakian, a Swiss and a Romanian made it to the two-day occasion after an SOS name from officers of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), who had sleepless nights as they couldn’t discover certified judges to undertake worldwide journey due to the pandemic.

“Lot of judges turned down our request due to COVID-related restrictions in their countries. For this event to be recognised by World Athletics, we needed to have three international judges and that too from different nations. If we had not met those requirements, these athletes would have not earned a berth for Tokyo despite making the cut as per the timings,” the AFI president Adille Sumariwalla mentioned.

The AFI’s luck modified after they reached out to Slovakia’s Martik Skarba, a former walker. He competed for greater than a decade earlier than changing into a race-walking decide. Skarba not solely agreed to journey, however he additionally began making calls to persuade different judges to journey to India on quick discover. His huge buddies’ circle within the race-walking group helped. “Ninety percent of them refused because of Covid-related restrictions. But I kept on trying. I didn’t want Indian athletes to be robbed of a chance to qualify,” Skarba says.

He bought Swiss Frederic Bianchi, who would be the chief decide at Tokyo, and Romanian Dr Alexandru Stefan to pack their luggage.

Stefan, a professional medical physician, had to first calm his anxious spouse earlier than he left for Ranchi. A $100 day by day allowance, lesser than what judges are paid in Europe, didn’t make it any simpler.

“When I told my wife that I need to go to India she wasn’t happy at all. But race walking is my passion and I had to come to India to help the athletes,” Dr Stefan mentioned. It took him 24 hours of journey time to attain the venue. Bianchi had to take a prepare and three flights to journey from Collombey-Muraz in Switzerland to Jharkhand’s capital metropolis. His Facebook publish offers an concept of how taxing the journey was. “We made it!” learn the publish from Ranchi. “I had to come. I had to undergo multiple tests and it was a long journey but I am pleased I could make it,” Bianchi

Dr Stephan didn’t need to miss a possibility to reconnect with race strolling. After college, he had to select between observe and subject or a medical school diploma. Dr Stephan, who works on the analysis wing of Johnson & Johnson, by no means misplaced his ardour for sport and located time to full qualification programs for judges. mentioned.

‘Not the best technique’

Sandeep Kumar, Priyanka Goswami and Rahul Kumar are the three who certified within the 20 kilometre race stroll for the Olympics.

Sandeep, who received the gold on Saturday with a brand new nationwide file, was warned twice throughout his run. Bianchi feels Indian race walkers want to work tougher to refine their method. Bianchi additionally officiated within the Under-20 (10 km) race stroll on Sunday and wasn’t impressed with India’s younger crop.

“The technique of the juniors was terrible. The coaches have to really work hard,” he mentioned.

Dr Stefan says the judges interacted with the individuals after the occasion and briefed them in regards to the areas they’ll work on. “All of them have the same flaws or strengths,” he mentioned. But as he prepares to journey again house, he has different issues on his thoughts.

“I am not sure if my wife will let me in when I go back,” he mentioned in jest.


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