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Soorma Shines Amid Controversy at Asian Para Games

On the opening day of the Asian Para Games, a contentious issue arose for the Indian team. The event disqualified Dharambir, Pranav Soorma, and Anantram, who were set to compete in the F53 men’s discus throw final. Allegedly, they arrived late at the call room, a designated area within the stadium where para-athletes gather before their competitions. According to the event’s rules, all athletes must be present in the call room 50 minutes before their event.

Leaving the controversy aside, India had an impressive day at the Asian Para Games,

securing a total of 17 medals on Monday. These medals included 6 gold, 6 silver, and 5 bronze, positioning India in the fourth spot on the points table. China, Iran, and Uzbekistan occupied the top three places.

The Indian team argued that the athletes arrived on time but event officials asked them to step outside for the inspection of their throwing stands (wheelchairs). Unfortunately, when they were brought back in, ten minutes had passed, and they were considered late, which resulted in their exclusion. It was absurd.

Officials summoned us for an outside check of our throwing stands. It’s baffling why this last-minute inspection was necessary.

Regardless, we entered the call room at 3:44 pm local time, only to find out that the cutoff time was 3:43 pm. We tried to discuss this with the officials, but our efforts were in vain,” expressed Soorma, who had earlier secured a gold medal in the F51 club throw event.

India made a formal protest, but it was ultimately denied. Gursharan Singh, the PCI secretary and India’s chief representative at the event, stated, “The technical director remained unwavering. Despite the efforts of around 14-15 Indians trying to clarify the situation, our pleas fell on deaf ears. The Indian trio had a promising chance to sweep the podium.”

The protest, a copy of which is available to HT, aimed to invoke Rule 35 of the WPA Rules and Regulations 2023, with a request to permit all three athletes to participate.

Expressing frustration, India’s athletics coach Satyanarayana accused the Chinese officials of deliberate actions, stating, “What transpired appeared intentional on the part of the Chinese officials. It was unjust. They seemed to want to undermine our spirits.”

Before the club throw competition, the clubs used by Indian athletes Soorma, Dharambir, and Amit Siroha were disqualified due to size violations.

The club’s specifications were clear: the neck should measure 18-20mm, the widest part 50-60mm, the metallic section 39X13mm, and the weight between 397-422gms. All our clubs underwent meticulous inspections according to World Paralympics guidelines before our arrival. However, officials found minor deviations here and there. Among the three of us, we had around 15 clubs, yet none met the required standards. Ultimately, we had to compete with the clubs provided by the event organizers,” explained Soorma, the gold medalist. Dharambir secured silver, while Siroha took home the bronze.

We, as athletes, are accustomed to overcoming challenges, but this situation was unprecedented. We had witnessed similar incidents with Jyothi Yarraji and Neeraj Chopra during the Asian Games, so it didn’t catch us entirely off guard,” noted Soorma.

In addition to other outstanding athletes, shooter Avani Lekhara clinched the gold medal with a Games record score of 249.6, and Ankur Dhama secured gold in the T11 5000m event, finishing in an impressive 16.37 minutes. In the men’s T63 high jump, Shailesh Kumar soared to victory, achieving a gold medal with a Games record jump of 1.82m, while Mariyappan Thangavelu claimed the silver with a jump of 1.80m.

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