Criteria trump merit to deprive karatekas of Asian Games participation

[ M Doley ]
ITANAGAR, Aug 4: Criteria prevailed over merit in the selection of the Indian contingent for the Asian Games, particularly in karate discipline.
Eight karatekas, including Johny Mangkhiya from Arunachal Pradesh, were selected by the Karate Association India (KAI) for the Games. However, six of them, including Johny, were later dropped from the Indian team by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), reasoning that they did not fulfill the selection criteria.
Arunachal Karate Do Association president Likha Tara along with Arunachal Olympic Association Secretary General Abraham K Techi ran from pillar to post at the IOA office in New Delhi, seeking the karatekas’ inclusion in the national team.
Tara said the IOA officials told them that the six players were dropped because they did not hold the minimum achievement of earning sixth position in the previous edition of the Asian Karate Championship.
“Highly impressed by the consistent performance of Johny at national and international events, she had been invited by the KAI for the selection trial, along with 56 other karatekas from across the country,” he said.
Living up to the KAI’s expectation, the athlete from the state made it to the final after a rigorous three-tier selection process.
“During her final selection trial, in Bhopal, she outclassed three of the contenders in her category. Her opponents could not earn even a single point against Johny during the trial,” Tara, who also is the KAI vice-president, said.
“More importantly, Johny made it to the final list, defeating Asian Karate Championship bronze medal winner of this year, Ananiya of Bihar, 2-0. Otherwise, Ananiya was the main contender in her category as she is the current third position holder of Asian Championship, fulfilling the criteria,” he said.
But the KAI strictly adhered to its ‘merit-basis’ selection and selected Johny and seven others for the Games.
“Despite her outstanding performance, the IOA has not considered her selection and stuck to the selection criteria.
Thus, neither Johny nor Ananya got the chance to represent the country due to the adamant attitude of the IOA,” rued the AKA president.
The KAI also made every effort for their inclusion, and even approached the youth & sports ministry, but to no avail.
“In the last Asian Games, the Indian karate team could not participate and that is why we have no ranking of the last year’s Asian Games. However, on the basis of the performance of the players, we had selected eight players, as per the quota, for the Games, and submitted the list to the IOA on 26 July. They are the best karatekas in their respective categories right now in the country and they have been selected keeping in view of medal winning possibilities,” said a KAI representation submitted to Youth Affairs & Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, urging him to include the remaining six players in the Asian Games-bound national team.
“Further, with the approval of the ministry of youth affairs & sports and financial assistance from the SAI, the karatekas had been practicing hard for the last six months for the Asian Games. A coach from Iran was also appointed to train the players,” the memorandum read.
It is pertinent to mention that the ministry of youth affairs & sports, in consultation with the SAI, decided to support karate and two other sports disciplines for foreign exposure and training, in preparation for the forthcoming Asian Games, in view of their ‘credible’ performance recently.
Talking to this reporter, a crestfallen Johny said: “I was heartbroken after hearing about the IOA’s decision to drop me and my five compatriots at the last moment.
“I had been practicing very, very hard with my heart and soul; I had a dream to play and win glory for my country and the state. But the news came like a bolt from the blue,” a visibly unhappy Johny said.
Some of Johny’s notable performances are national gold medal in 2013 and 2015, silver medal in the same event in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and gold medal in the 8th Commonwealth Karate Championship.
She has also represented India in the Asian and World Karate Championships.