The participation of two Indian pole vaulters in the Asian U-20 Athletics Championship in Yecheon, South Korea, beginning on Sunday was rendered doubtful after their equipment was not permitted in a South Korean as well as an Air India aircraft due to “technical issues” related to length of the poles.
Dev Kumar Meena (men’s pole vault) and Sunil Kumar (decathlon, of which pole vault is one of the 10 events) were to compete in their respective events on Sunday but they left for Seoul in a South Korean flight on Friday, which is in alliance with Air India, without their poles.
Even Air India refused to carry the poles in its 12:05am flight on Friday, according to an official of the Athletics Federation of India.
Strange! Indian pole vaulters might not compete at Asian U20 meet as Air India reluctant to carry poles from New Delhi to Seoul. Flight 12.05. 3 poles of 5m each allowed in domestic flight.@Media_SAI @JM_Scindia @IndiaSports @YASMinistry @airindia https://t.co/UV0xFsfPvi
— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) June 2, 2023
The AFI official said that Air India refused to carry three poles measuring 5m each to be used by the two athletes, on the ground of some “technical issues” concerning prescribed length of the items.
“The two athletes have already reached South Korea but their poles are stuck here in Delhi airport. Air India said they cannot allow the 5m-long poles under the current rules. It is strange that our athletes had gone to Busan (South Korea) with the same kind of poles only last year,” the AFI official told PTI.
Even though AFI tried its best to send the poles by a FedEx Express Cargo, the federation was unsuccessful in its effort.
“We have been running here and there since yesterday afternoon but Air India is not relenting. The three poles could not be taken to South Korea in FedEx Express Cargo also. So, the Indian team management has requested the organisers to provide poles to the two Indian athletes,” the AFI official added.
In fact, the entire 55-member Indian contingent was to leave for South Korea from the Indira Gandhi International Airport here at 6:30pm on Friday in a Seoul-based Asiana Airlines flight, but the Indian coaches were told that they would not be allowed to take the three poles as well as the javelins.
The AFI had booked the tickets through Air India with the help of a travel agency.
“All the paperwork relating to bookings and luggage were done by Air India as they have a tie-up with Asiana Airlines. On May 26, a mail was sent to Air India informing about the number of poles and javelins we will be taking to Korea, along with their size specification.
“But when the contingent reached IGI yesterday to board the flight, Asiana Airlines said Air India has not informed them about it and so the poles and javelins could not be allowed inside the aircraft,” the AFI official said.
According to Air India sources, the poles were of odd size and security checks could not be cleared. So, it couldn’t be carried on the flight. All the members of the contingent, save for two coaches left for South Korea boarding the Asiana Airlines. The two coaches were held back to accompany the poles and javelins in an Air India flight to Seoul at 12:05am on Friday.
“What was surprising was that Air India itself refused to carry the poles because of its length and some technical issues. We even went to the Air India cargo office at the IGI to let in the poles and javelins as cargo, but to no avail.
“The javelins were finally allowed and the two coaches, initially held back, also boarded the Air India flight,” the AFI official said.
“The two athletes had brought the poles in a domestic flight from Bengaluru and there was no problem then, don’t know why it is different in this case.” Even if the three poles do not reach South Korea on time, the two athletes may still compete on Sunday by using equipment of other competitors or those provided by the organisers but that will affect their performance.
“They may still participate even if the poles do not reach on time. But normally the length of the pole depends on the height of the pole vaulter, so they may compete if they get poles of their size, otherwise they may not do their best.” The 55-member Indian contingent for the June 4-7 championships has 45 athletes, including 19 women, and 10 coaches.