Deaflympic athletes upset, protest at IGI

Won 5 medals, but no one to welcome them at IGI.

New Delhi: Hearing-impaired athletes, who represented India at the 23rd Summer Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, refused to leave the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport on Tuesday protesting against the lack of acknowledgement or appreciation of their success at the tournament. The Indian contingent of hearing impaired athletes, who came back with five medals, were deeply saddened at the gross apathy and negligence shown by the sports administration and the Indian government.

The contingent, comprising 46 athletes and their support staff, said that they were upset with the government for not recognising their success in the games, which included winning five medals, including a gold. This is the best performance ever by the country in this category. It is also learnt that when the players wanted to speak to sports minister Vijay Goel, he paid no heed to their request.

“The Indian contingent participated in a total of eight disciplines at the games. Out of those eight disciplines, we won medals in three. We won gold and bronze in wrestling, bronze in lawn tennis, and silver in golf,” Ketan Shah, the team’s interpreter, said.

“The day we won the medals, we told the government that we have made the nation proud. But no one, not even the sports minister, is here to welcome us,” he rued.

“All we want is for either the sports minister or any government official to come here and appreciate our players. We informed them that we will be coming back on August 1, but we failed to get a response out of them. We have been trying to contact officials, but we are just being told that they are unavailable,” added Mr Shah.

Virender Singh bagged a gold medal in the 74 kg freestyle wrestling, while Ajay Kumar and Sumit Dahiya clinched bronze medals in 65 kg and 97 kg freestyle wrestling events respectively. Golfer Diksha Dagar secured a silver, while Prithvi Sekhar and Jafreen Shaik earned bronze in men’s doubles tennis event.

The athletes staged a protest for over six hours before Dilip Singh, a project officer with the Sports Authority of India, came to receive them. The official took them to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The athletes were taken to Shastri Bhawan in the evening.

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