If the fiasco with the kits was not enough, the Indian contingent for the Paralympic Games has come into even sharper focus for the excessive number of officials which have travelled with India’s largest ever Para Games contingent.As many as 20 Indian athletes will be participating in Rio including a guide runner, but together with them as many as 18 officials have travelled with the team.Apart from a Chef-de-Mission as required, 3 coaches, a team doctor and physio, 2 Sports Authority of India and 2 Sports ministry officials are part of the list. Latest information says that a female physio has also been added, which might well be a welcome move. But the real point of debate is the number of so-called ‘escorts’.While there is no official category of an ‘escort’ to accompany a para-athlete, guidelines do allow for officials (category Ao) to accompany athletes with specific disabilities. The International Paralympic Committee’s guidelines clearly state such categories and also add that the ratio of officials with such athletes should 1 official per 3 athletes for each gender.Indian team has 4 such athletes who need an ‘escort’.Amit Kumar Saroha and Dharamvir are F51 category club and discus throw athletes, while Deepa Malik who is a javelin and shot put athlete comes under F53 category. Even if there is one male and one female escort for these three athletes, official ratio dictates there should be only 2 such escorts with the team. Yet as many as 7 escorts have been sent. Ankur Dhama is T11 category 1500m runner also qualifies but he already has a guide runner as part of athletic contingent.advertisementPHYSICALLY-CHALLENGED ESCORTGirraj Singh, a former Indian para-athlete and current executive member of the Paralympics Committee of India, was first included as a coach. After members of the para community complained that he is no coach, he has been included as an escort. But here is the kicker. Girraj is physically-challenged himself.Former president of the PCI, and current Vice-President of the Asian Paralympic Committee, Rajesh Tomar told India Today that he was not surprised by such names coming in the list. “How is Girraj supposed to help para athletes when he is physically-challenged himself? SAI and Ministry might not have known that he is physically-challenged but they should have done more thorough checking. This is a joke. First he was included as coach when he is no coach. Then he was accommodated as escort.”Former Arjuna Awardee Ramesh Tikaram says, “Several athletes are made to say they need a specific person as a coach. They are tutored. This has been happening a lot in India.”We need professional people who can help athletes. But there are coaches with team who have no knowledge of the particular sport,” he added without naming people from the current contingent.
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