A day after controversy broke out over the exclusion of 22-year-old Kerala athlete PU Chithra in the Indian team for World AthleticChampionship, sprint legend PT Usha said on Wednesday that Chithra's performance at the Asian Championship was not on par with the qualifying standards.
Chithra had won the gold medal for the 1500m event at the Asian Championship, which was to be her direct ticket to participate in the World Championship. However, the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) excluded her from the list, following which, Chithra and her coach Sijin approached the High Court.
Saying that she was indeed disappointed that a young athlete from the state did not find a place in the team, Usha said that the decision was taken purely by the AFI and that she had no role in it.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that he would put pressure on the Centre to include Chithra in the team. There was criticism against PT Usha, for her alleged failure to convince the federation. Usha was reported to have been in the selection committee that made the decision.
However, addressing the press in Kozhikode on Wednesday, PT Usha dismissed reports that she was part of the selection committee.
"The federation is the selection committee and I took part in the meeting as an observer. A gold medalist at the AC is bound to get entry to the World Championship, subject to the decision of the federation. I am not happy that Chithra and two others are not in the team. However, we must understand that Chithra's performance was way below the qualifying standards. The commitee's decision was to send those athletes, whose timings were close to the qualifying standard," she said.
Usha added that reports that claimed she hadn't fought for Chithra to be made part of the team were baseless and false.
"As an observer, I did tell them that Chithra was a young athlete and that the WC would be a good exposure for her. However, if you take the record of the past performances, you will see that Chithra's current score is not even in the best 200 scores. So when the committee has such solid figures with them to argue that Chithra and the two others shouldn't be in the team, on what basis can I refute them? The committee was of the opinion that Chithra wasn't consistent in her performance," PT Usha said.
Generally, the qualifying games are tough at the Asian Championship and those who get gold medal in the sporting event score very close to the qualifying standards of the WC.
However, PT Usha said that this time around, the performance of many gold medalists at the Asian Championships was not on par with the qualifying standards.
She said that criticism has come her way, because people had misunderstood the whole situation. This had even led to the Sports Minister of the state making statements against her, Usha said.
Earlier, speaking to TNM, Chithra had said that her exclusion from the team had come as an unexpected set back. Chithra had also expressed hope in the CM's promise that he would intervene to get her name included in the list.