India’s compound archery team members were “left stranded” on Karnal Bypass till late at night on Friday while travelling to Delhi airport but the national federation said it might have happened in its bid to separate them from the recurve group after a coach tested positive for COVID-19.
The Sonepat-based compound archers were to join the Olympic-bound recurve team at Delhi airport to catch a 2.50am flight to Amsterdam en route Guatemala City for the April 19-25 World Cup Stage I.
But after hearing that compound team coach Gaurav Sharma had tested positive for COVID-19 at SAI, Sonepat on Thursday, the Archery Association of India decided not to allow them join the recurve team.
The compound archers have now been withdrawn from the tournament, the much-anticipated first event after the pandemic halted all events in March 2020.
“We cannot compromise on the safety of our recurve archers as they are slated to play in the Olympics in less than 100 days. As per the SOP, we had to isolate them (compound archers) who were in direct contact with the coach,” AAI secretary general Pramod Chandurkar told PTI.
“Both the teams were to travel together and we did not want to take that one per cent chance. The American guidelines are very strict and if something happened then the full contingent would have suffered, putting the recurve archers Olympic preparation in jeopardy. We did not want to take any risk.”
A compound team official, however, narrated the harrowing experience as they were left stranded on the Karnal Bypass for more than two hours on Friday evening, waiting for the decision.
The bus had the eight-member compound team, including seasoned campaigners Abhishek Verma, Rajat Chauhan and V Jyothi Surekha and three minors Pragati, Akshita and Sanchi Dhalla.
“It all happened around 7pm when we were approaching the Delhi border as they asked us to stop our journey and wait for the instruction,” the official claimed.
The official said they had immediately isolated the coach (Gaurav Sharma) after his report came positive one day before their journey to the national capital.
“But the recurve archers put pressure on the federation via Zoom call and threatened not to board the flight if the compound archers joined them (at the airport). The discussions continued and finally they did not allow the compound archers,” he claimed.
“Despite taking the full two doses of vaccine (in Pune), they (recurve archers) all got scared of contracting the virus. It also showed a lack of unity in the team.”
He further claimed that the federation could have handled the matter better but there was complete lack of communication and they arranged their travel to their respective homes on their own in the middle of the night.
“Till now there has been no official communication, none from the federation spoke to the compound members. We got to know this personally around 9.30pm and had to make our own travel arrangements back home.
“We had three minors in the team and we all had to manage our travel back home on our own. Jyothi took a midnight flight to Hyderabad. It was a complete mess. They made it clear that the compound archers are of no priority for the federation.
“The archers offered to go on their own, by making their own bookings but the federation refused to listen,” he said.
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