The four-member squad failed to reach the qualifiers owing to a lack of awareness.

Indian taekwondo squad’s dreams of playing in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics are in tatters due to a lack of awareness of the 14-day quarantine rule. The Indian team missed the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament that took place in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

The organising committee refused visa to the Indian team due to rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.

The selected athletes for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers were Kashish Malik (57kg) and Margerettge Regi (67 kg) in the women’s section. Whereas, Akshay Hooda (68 kg) and Navjeet Singh Mann (80 kg) were the representatives in the men’s group. It is worth noting that the Taekwondo Federation of India (TFI) has been derecognized by the sports ministry since 2014 due to the breach of regulations.

The Indian Olympic Association has appointed an ad-hoc body in its absence called ‘Team Taekwondo’. In an exclusive conversation with Khel Now, a member from the taekwondo fraternity spoke about the incident and its repercussions.

A distant dream

Taekwondo made its first Olympic appearance as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It was again a demonstration sport in the 1992 Barcelona Games. The martial art became a full medal sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and has been a part of the Olympic Games ever since.

Recent years has seen a surge in the popularity of taekwondo in India and the upcoming Tokyo Games could have been a major milestone for the sport in India. However, things didn’t turn out according to plan. The member said, “With taekwondo being an Olympic sport, it being derecognized for seven years in India questions the leadership. How do we expect the sport to move forward if the sport itself is derecognized? There has been no election for two years.”

Further speaking on the plight of the athletes, he said, “There are many players who have sacrificed everything for the sport. They have been preparing for the last seven to eight years. It takes a lot of hard work to become a national champion, and then they start their quest to go up the international ladder. It is not just the athletes, but also their coach, academy, parents, district body, sponsors. Everyone’s effort has gone in vain.”

Mismanagement by the authorities

He also spoke about the mismanagement on the part of various major bodies. The member stated, “The Sports Ministry promotes only those sports in which it has its own personal interests. Taekwondo is not a team sport; it is an individual sport and spending some money on it can lead to good results. It is not considered amongst the priority sports because we don’t have good results in it. Results can only be achieved after they have an interest in it and spend some funds on it. Why will people pursue this sport then?”

He went on to add, “The team was supposed to reach Jordan by 19 May. But the trials took place in Lucknow only on May 7. That too the players were not given any official invitation for the trials and received messages only by WhatsApp. Many of them had to rush to Lucknow. After this, how do you expect the team to reach Jordan on time and follow the necessary protocols.”

“Even after a lot of hard work, the taekwondo athletes are not able to achieve anything. They are only getting false promises. Nothing is being done so far. Athletes can only train for the events, but organizing tournaments or sending them to participate abroad is not the responsibility of the athletes. It is the responsibility of the management. There was no proper planning and seriousness ahead of such a massive event in Jordan.”

Cause for concern

This set of events will certainly have its effects on the future generation of upcoming Indian taekwondo talents. “The future generation of aspiring taekwondo players will be severely affected because of this. The current crop of players is not even getting the chance to participate. I know many parents who have personally told me that they should leave taekwondo and turn their attention towards other sports,” he concluded.

The last couple of weeks has been a dark period in Indian taekwondo and judging by the current situation, the country’s wait for participating in the sport in Olympic Games might go on forever.

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