New Delhi: Legendary track and field athlete PT Usha on Monday criticised the national federation for its "poor" organisation of the National Open Championships being held here while also questioning its timing.
Usha said that the track where her ward Tintu Luka ran her 800m race had mud which had to be cleared by the athlete herself before running. "During the 800m heat race yesterday, there was mud on lane number one, where Luka was to run and she had to remove it herself from the track. A championship of such a stature should have been better organised," Usha told reporters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Usha also said that her ward could not see her first lap timing on the electronic board fixed at the finishing line and hence could not plan her strategy for the second lap. "You plan for the second 400m according to the first lap timing, but she could not see that on the electronic board. Such things affect your performance," Usha, who won four gold and a silver in 1986 Asian Games, said after Luka won the women's 800m race.
Usha also said that a meet of the stature of National Open where the states and government departments take part should have been held before a major international event like the Asian or Commonwealth Games instead of being pushed to a season-ending event.
"I feel the significance of National Open has gone down over the years. Since it is a season-ending event, there is nothing at stake for the athletes. They just want to take part and win for their respective departments," she said.
For the last few years, the National Open has been the season-ending meet with mediocre performance by the athletes. This year, National Inter-State and Federation Cup, competed among states, were held as selection trial for the Commonwealth and Asian Games respectively.
Most of the top athletes in the country are employed by one or the other public sector undertakings like the Railways and ONGC, and other entities like Indian Police, Services.
Usha said that National Open should have been held in place of Federation Cup (held in August) before the Asian Games. Athletic Federation of India officials refused to come on record regarding Usha's criticism but one said that the athletics calendar has been framed after taking into account various issues.
"We wanted to hold National Open after the departments hold their inter-departmental meets like All India Police Meet or All India Railways Meet so that they select athletes for National Open from these inter-departmental meets.
"If the National Open will have to be held early in the season, ideally the departments will also have to hold their inter-departmental meets early," the official said.