Harit N Joshi
MUMBAI: Amid the euphoria over javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia
clinching gold medal in the F46 category in Rio Paralympics, the
curious case of Sundar Singh Gurjar not starting the event has gone
largely under the radar.
Before the event at Rio, where Jhajharia won gold, Gurjar was touted
to be a strong medal contender, with reports even claiming that he was
regularly throwing 70 metres — Jhajharia’s world record at Rio on
Thursday stands at 63.97m.
Gurjar not competing at Rio, then, has justifiably raised eyebrows.
Having confined himself to his room since that disappointment, the
21-year-old opened up for the first time about the controversy,
blaming team coach Deepak Bhardwaj for him failing to participate in
the event, despite being in the arena well in advance.
“We (Jhajharia, Rinku Hooda and Sundar) were doing our warm-up
together. They both went inside (to report for the roll call) while I
went to take my kit bag which was kept a little away. SAI officials
and team coach Deepak Bhardwaj took the other two athletes for the
registration process while nobody even came looking for me. The coach
never made me aware of the rules. Instead, he just ignored me. By the
time I returned, I was a minute late and my entry was not accepted.
All my efforts went down the drain because of this one minute,” Gurjar
told Hindustan Times.
Several media reports claimed that Gurjar was plain negligent when the
announcements were made. It was also reported that Gurjar was nowhere
close to the training arena and was busy giving an interview to media.
Gurjar’s chances were also partly hampered by language barrier. “I
don’t understand English and I did not know that my name was being
called (due to difficulty in understanding the accent),” a heartbroken
Rajasthan State Sports Council coach Mahavir Saini, who accompanied
Gurjar to Rio, was not allowed inside the main arena as he did not
have accreditation for that particular event. “My personal coach was
there, but he was not allowed in. If the SAI officials or the coach
had told me that I cannot be late by even one second, I would not have
left that place and registered myself well before time,” lamented
RAISING EYEBROWS What makes Gurjar’s case suspicious is that he had
beaten Jhajharia’s long-standing national record earlier this year. In
August, Gurjar had filed an FIR alleging attempts to spike his juice
with a banned substance.
Gurjar, however, did not wish to claim that there was foul play in his
non-participation. “I cannot say anything about it (foul play), but
when the government has specially sent these officials to help the
Indian contingent, it is their duty to take care of each and every
“India has lost a medal only because of coach Deepak sir. He was right
there but never thought of informing me (about the rules and
regulations). I have been consistently throwing 10 metres further than
the world record. I have been robbed of an opportunity. God may have
not supported me this time, but I am confident he will support me next
time,” said Gurjar.
The fiasco has left Gurjar disappointed, but not defeated. “My aim now
is to win a gold medal at the 2017 World Championships in London. I am
more determined than ever and will work even harder than before,”
Bhardwaj did not respond to repeated calls and text messages.
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU
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