RED TAPE TRIPS MEDAL HOPES

Top of­fi­cials of the Par­a­lympics Com­mit­tee va­ca­tioned in Lon­don, at the ex­pense of Par­a­lympians geared for the defin­ing event of their lives, says NISHITA JHA

Tehelka - - DEATH AND DISEASE -

Ithe words — Far­man Basha is hold­ing a Press Con­fer­ence. On day four of the Par­a­lympics (29 Au­gust – 9 Septem­ber), power-lifter Basha was no longer a medal hope­ful; just a man on a wheel­chair, hold­ing a press con­fer­ence. Ath­letes from the In­dian con­tin­gent were still wait­ing to com­pete, and Girisha Hosana­gre was yet to win his cru­cial sil­ver medal. The small hud­dle of re­porters and vol­un­teers at the oth­er­wise de­serted Strat­ford Bus Sta­tion lis­tened to him and his wife An­tonita, as they al­leged that mis­man­age­ment by the Par­a­lympics Com­mit­tee of In­dia ( PCI) had caused him and other ath­letes to per­form badly, miss out on medals and, at times, even meals. As a news cam­era cut from a close-up of Basha telling the press that An­tonita had sold her jew­ellery to come to Lon­don with him, to a shot of her wheel­ing him away — a dis­tressed vol­un­teer turned to me and said, “Ev­ery­thing he is say­ing is ab­so­lutely true, but isn’t he over­do­ing it?”

He wasn’t. Three days prior to the open­ing cer­e­mony, Basha had al­ready sounded alarm bells telling the press that the PCI did not care about medals, that of­fi­cials were va­ca­tion­ing in Lon­don at the cost of pro­vid­ing ath­letes with coaches and es­corts. While all the other ath­letes were hard at train­ing, he had been told by the PCI to “en­joy Lon­don” in­stead of com­plain­ing. At 38, Basha, who con­tracted po­lio when he was two years old, had won seven con­sec­u­tive gold medals at the Na­tional Games. Since he be­gan train­ing in earnest, he has never lifted any­thing be­low 158 kg, un­til his event at the Par­a­lympics where

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