Kochi: With the union ministry stepping in to back the Kerala High Court directive to include P.U. Chithra in the Indian team for next month’s World Championship, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has written to the international body to grant special entry to the aggrieved athlete. The AFI, which had omitted Chithra along with two other Asian championship gold medallists for the world meet beginning in London on August 4, confirmed on Saturday that it was forced to comply with the court order and “sincerely request” the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to grant entry to the 1500m runner from Palakkad.
The AFI had omitted the Kerala athlete from the national team on the grounds of a below par display at the inter-state meet at Guntur, within a week from her triumph at the Asian meet in Bhubaneswar, clocking a personal best of 4:17.92. The AFI is expecting a reply from the IAAF competitions wings by Monday, but has refused to give any guarantees. “Normally these people (IAAF) don’t allow such things (special inclusions), but we cannot assume anything right now,” said AFI secretary C.K. Valson.
Meanwhile, the AFI office-bearer ruled out the possibility of a ‘wildcard entry’ for Chithra as suggested by Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, stating that it was not the norm. “There is no wildcard,” said the IAAF technical committee member. The federation fears further backlash from similarly aggrieved athletes (namely 1500 runner Ajay Kumar Saroj and 3000m steeplechaser Sudha Singh) should the IAAF allow Chithra’s participation. Meanwhile, Mr Valson reiterated that P.T. Usha never had a say in the selection process though the former champion athlete had claimed on Friday that she had told the committee to include Chithra in the team.