Indian distance runner OP Jaisha hit out at the national athletics federation on Monday for not providing her refreshments during the Rio Olympics marathon. She fainted at the finish line.
Jaisha, who didn’t want to run in the marathon at the Olympics in the first place and was allegedly forced to race by India’s Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev, hit out against the officials on her return from Brazil.
The runner from Kerala blamed the system for her poor show, after wilting in the heat and becoming unconscious. She was hospitalized and was administered drip before regaining consciousness after a couple of hours.
"I could have died there", said a distraught OP Jaisha as she recalled the women's marathon event at Rio Olympics.
"It was very hot there. The competition was at 9am, I ran in scorching heat. There was no water for us, neither recovery drinks nor food. Only once in 8kms did we get water (from the Rio organisers) which did not help at all. All the countries had their stalls at every 2kms but our country's stall was empty," said Jaisha who finished 89th in Rio Olympics women's marathon event with a below-par timing of 2:47:19.
"We are supposed to be given drinks by our technical officials, it’s the rule. We cannot take water from any other team. I saw the India board there but there was nothing. I had a lot of problem, I fainted after the race. I was administered glucose, I thought I would die.”
"My coach was very angry and he ended up arguing with the doctors. The coach thought I was dead. He pushed the doctor to enter my room because he knew he would be held responsible if anything happened to me," she added trying to clear the air on Snesarev's actions.
However, it may not be merely a case of negligence by the officials. Athletics Federation of India secretary CK Valson told HT it was the coach’s call not to give additional refreshments to the runner. "We had collected passes and made arrangements, but Nikolai refused. How could be go ahead then?” he asked.
At world level marathons, there are ‘water stations’ after a certain distance along the route. Here, normal water and sponges are kept. There are also separate aid stations where the support staff of individual athletes waits to provide them supplement drinks. However, athletes must be used to such drinks during training or else it may not be effective in a race.
On her return to Bengaluru, doctors were shocked by her condition. "We wanted to admit her to hospital and arranged the ambulance," said Dr SR Sarala of the Sports Authority of India. "But she insisted that she wanted to go home (to Kerala) for treatment."
Jaisha said she is a middle distance runner whose pet event is the 1500m, but that she was coerced by her coach to run the marathon.
When asked about the incident, Sports Minister Vijay Goel said it was the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) responsibility.
"Every time any small incident happens, we take note. It was AFI's job, it is the federation which should have taken care of this," he said.