An Indian athletics team, including star sprinters Hima Das and Duty Chand, was forced to exit the World Relay qualifiers next month in Poland after a connecting flight to Amsterdam was suspended due to a record jump in COVID-19 cases here.
The women’s 4×100 meters and men’s 4×400 meters relay teams were scheduled to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam in the wee hours of Thursday, but the Dutch government halted flights from India on Monday night. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has tried to book an alternative flight that is available to any European city on the route to Silesia in Poland, where the event will take place on 1 and 2 May, as there is no direct flight to Poland from India. .
Adille J Sumariwalla, president of AFI, said: “We are very disappointed at the moment. There are no direct flights between Indian airports and Warsaw, Poland. This meant that despite best efforts, the team could not be reassigned to another airline.”
“For the last 24 hours, we have been constantly trying to find alternatives … We are constantly talking to the Organizers, World Athletics, various consulates and airlines to redirect them. In the current scenario, no one has committed,” he added.
S Dhanalakshmi, who beat Dutee in the women’s 100m sprint final of the Federation Cup last month, was also named to the team, along with Archana Suseendran, Himashree Roy and AT Daneshwari.
India was also set for field teams in the men’s 4x400m race to be held in Chorzow, Silesia, Poland. The top eight teams in the world relay will automatically qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The women’s 4x400m relay team was withdrawn earlier because more than two members were unfit.
The Indian 4x400m relay team is already qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics after reaching the final at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
AFI was hoping for the women’s 4x100m relay team to qualify for the event in Poland. The World Relay would be the first major international event for Indian sprinters since the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in April 2019.
The Indian women’s 4x100m team includes Hima Das, Duty Chand, Danalakshmi Sekhar, Archana Suseentran, Daneshwari TA and Himashri Roy, while the men’s 4x400m team consists of Mohamed Anas Yahya, Arokia Rajeev, Amoy Jacob Toham, Nimah Niam .