‘False Positive’ costs archery team dearly

Deccan Chronicle.  | Sashidhar Adivi

Sports, In Other News

India’s compound archers’ team was left high and dry after Coach Gaurav Sharma’s COVID-test reported a ‘false positive’ on Friday.

Jyothi Surekha Vennam

Dejected compound archers of the country had to withdraw from World Cup Stage 1 Championship. The team was set to join the Olympic-bound recurve archers’ team at the Delhi airport. Together both the teams were scheduled to board the 2.50 am flight on Saturday to Amsterdam enroute Guatemala City for the World Cup Stage I, which is to be held from 19–25 April.

However, on Friday evening, just as the compound team was about to board the bus to Delhi from Sonepat, the Archery Association of India (AAI) learnt that coach Gaurav had tested positive. Hence he was asked not to board the bus.

Fearing that since the players had come in close contact with him, many might test positive for the virus, the AAI decided not to test the team. Then the sport body asked the compound team players to not join the recurve team at the Delhi airport. As a result, the players were left stranded at the Karnal Bypass (Sonepat–Delhi Highway) on Friday night even as the recurve team jetted off to Guatemala.

The dejected players had to return home on Saturday. Ironically, on Saturday Coach Gaurav gave another test, the result which showed negative!

Players heart-broken

The entire episode has left the compound team players feeling very sad. The players were sure that they could get medals for the country. The World Cup would have been a great start for them after the lockdown.

Telugu girl and Arjuna Award winner Jyothi Surekha, who had won the bronze medal in the 2011 Asian Archery Championships, was one among the dejected team members. She stayed overnight at the airport and started for Hyderabad in the wee hours of Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t go to the World Cup and it’s extremely disappointing to see how things turned out, but we can do nothing about it,” she says. “The last two days have been quite stressful. But we have to take it in our stride and focus on our next championship in Paris in June,” says Jyothi.

Abhishek Verma, another player, also expressed his anguish. Having trained so hard for over three months and stayed away from the family, he feels disheartened not to make it to the World Cup.

“This championship meant a lot to us because it is the first major tourney after one and half year (post the lockdown). It also gives us an opportunity to assess our performance. Given the way we have been training we were sure to get medals,” regrets the 2014 Asian Games gold and silver medallist.

Whose fault it is?

Having tested COVID-19 positive on Friday, Coach Gaurav Sharma was shocked with his result as his earlier four tests from 14 days were negative.
“I was shocked that I tested positive, especially when I didn’t have any symptoms,” he shares.

But the coach is clueless who he thinks is to be blamed for the incident. “I don’t know whom to blame, but this has been a big blow to my career. I was expecting medals from my team, and we were very positive,” he explains.

Though shocked, he is currently trying to get his players to focus on the next tournament. Could the federations have handled the players better, instead of leaving them stranded on highway?

A diplomatic Gaurav simply says, “Everyone was running from pillar to post to complete the paperwork and other formalities, so we can’t blame anyone. But the players surely could have been met with a better treatment.”

Federation’s approach questioned

With AAI withdrawing the compound team from the World Cup, there are speculations abound that the federation favours the Olympic-bound recurve team to the former. One does wonder about that theory when you note that in the Olympics, there’s only a recurve team category and not a compound team category.

In fact, according to one of the players’ parents who finds fault with the federation’s approach to the entire episode, there seems to be foul play. The parent reinstates that the federation always favoured the recurve team because of their Olympic participation.

“Why did the Federation conduct COVID-19 test for the coach on the eve of departure? After he was tested positive, why didn’t they take him for the second test? Moreover, he could have been isolated and the compound team could have been sent since all of them carry negative COVID-19 test reports,” rues the parent, who requested anonymity.

Federation’s denial

Amid the furore over the country losing a great opportunity to win medals at the World Cup, AAI completely denies allegations on how the players were being treated. It further states they were only adhering to the COVID-19 standard operating procedures.

AAI Secretary General, Pramod Chandurkar, argues, “How can we take a risk when a member of the contingent is tested positive for COVID-19? The COVID-19 rules in Central America are very stringent and since both the teams are travelling together, if anyone has tested positive, the entire Indian team will be refrained from participating in the World Cup.”