It takes a lot of courage to confront an institution or an established administrator

I’m not much of a social media guy, not in those Twitter battles. But I would like to say this to the protesting wrestlers. I don’t know which side is which, who is right or wrong, because everyone has their own perception; That, for example, it has some ulterior motive.

File image of Indian athlete Tejaswin Shankar (Tejaswin Shankar/Twitter)

But even if they are wrong, I would still like to support my wrestlers. Because, as a sportsperson, this is the least I can do for my fraternity. And because I know that it takes a lot of effort, courage, and commitment to fight for what you think is right. So, I don’t know why people should worry about what is right and what is wrong. They should be worried about why they are on the road and why no one listens to them. This is the big concern.

Speaking from personal experience, it takes a lot of courage to take on an institution, or someone who has been an administrator for so many years (Tejaswin had last year removed the Adil Sumariwalla-led Athletics Federation of India from his non- Was taken to court for selection. Commonwealth Games. He won Case, and then CWG High Jump Bronze at Birmingham). Even if you have an ulterior motive, it is really hard to muster up the strength to do so. I felt it personally with all the waves of thoughts in my mind. I was under a lot of stress during that time – I couldn’t sleep, eat or think properly. And I was doing that for myself; The only person to benefit from this was me and my entry into the Commonwealth Games. These wrestlers are also fighting for others, and their community as a whole. This in itself is commendable.

Finding that courage from within is not easy. Especially considering how our sports system has been set up over the years. Growing up as an athlete in India, you are often at the mercy of one person – be it an administrator, a coach or someone else. You’ve been told to make sure you don’t rub her the wrong way. This is what has happened. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

That’s why such fights often become more about a single person. Because they have become synonymous with the federation. Then it becomes a personal fight in which people come to the rescue of that person. The day the union becomes less about the individual and more about being a unit, we will probably see less personal feuding and more transparency. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re pushing for – transparency and a democratic process.

For the time being, our eyes are on these wrestlers only. Who knows, maybe tomorrow another sport that gains strength from what’s happening will come forward. However, it takes a lot of courage to be that first person. Hats off to these wrestlers for taking a stand. I hope this is a catalyst and things can change for the better. This will be a bigger victory for our country than any medal.

But, for now, it is very disheartening to see our wrestlers on the road. The only time I have seen Vinesh Phogat or Sakshi Malik cry is when they hear the national anthem on the podium after winning a medal. From seeing them crying there to seeing them crying here, it hurts.

As he has said time and again that when he wins a medal for the country, everyone wants to take a picture with him. Now when he needs it the most, no one wants to stand by him. This is the sad truth. The situation is that no action has been taken since three months. Nobody was willing to talk about it, do anything about it. Now the FIR has been registered. If it was a complaint of sexual harassment, why was the FIR not registered on the first day? I think this should be addressed first regardless of what is right or wrong.

I hope there is some solution to this soon, as Neeraj (Chopra) and some other people also tweeted. You cannot let our athletes sit on the road for months and months. Not just athletes, anyone for that matter. I wouldn’t say give in to all their demands, but at least go there, sit with them and listen to them. Committees were formed, and while I don’t know very well the outcome of that, from what I understand I don’t think there has been a resolution. Those are the basic things that need attention. Ultimately, it comes down to transparency. In everything – be it selection guidelines for merit or sensitive issues like this.

Tejaswin Shankar is the national high jump record holder and 2022 CWG bronze medallist. US Based Athlete spoke to Rutvik Mehta.

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