Mary, Sharath chief and deputy in athletes’ panel

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Multiple World Boxing Championships medallist and London Olympic bronze winner, Mary Kom, and multiple Asian and Commonwealth Games medallist in Table Tennis, A Sharath Kamal, will be the chairperson and the vice-chairperson of the IOA’s Athletes’ Commission.

The 10 members elected unanimously on Monday chose their leaders and also two representatives who would be part of the general assembly. London Olympic bronze medallist in shooting, Gagan Narang, and multiple Olympic medallist in badminton, PV Sindhu, are part of the general assembly that will meet on December 10. Going by the constitution, they will have the right to vote. Mary and Sharath will be part of the Executive Council too.

There were long discussions and there were allegations too that the members were already decided before the meeting. However, if athletes who attended the meeting are to be believed, the process was smooth. Since Mary was one of the senior sportspersons, all agreed with her as the chairperson.

Umesh Sinha, the Returning Officer of the IOA elections, said it was a great moment for him to witness the process of election. “The unanimous election of the two posts of this body was done in the most cordial and elegant manner,” he told this newspaper. As an RO, he gave away certificates to Mary and Sharath.

Mary, while talking to this newspaper, said: “as the Commission’s chairperson, I have a vision to take Indian sports to greater heights and take them to the Olympic podium. “I may not be a good administrator but I will work with my respected members to fulfil the dreams of our athletes. All the team members have good experience. It is also about sharing our ideas together and making a transparent and clean atmosphere in our sports system.”  

For Sharath, who was elected to the ITTF athletes’ commission, it was a surprise, but he’s all ready to take up a new responsibility. “I have been on the court with the racquet. Now I have to be the voice of the athletes and I have to understand the administrative part also. Mary has been on the administrative part as a Member of Parliament and has been part of quite a few committees and commissions. For me, it is something new. But I am looking forward to the responsibility.”

“My first job and a very important job given to us is the selection of the Sportspersons of Outstanding Merit (SOMs). We have to scrutinise the applications. It’s a big job. I will also have to understand a bit more and try to read and learn more about the IOA constitution and the Athletes’ Commission regulations. If you look at it, you would be even shortlisting your idols. In sports, usually they would be shortlisting us but in administration it’s the other way round. But then, it’s a job and it needs to be done in the best possible way. It’s good that all the sportspersons are coming in and doing this collectively.”
Gagan too felt it will be a big responsibility, “but I am looking forward to it. As an athlete, it took me over 15 years from picking the right sport and winning an Olympic medal.”

“Being a member of the Athletes Commission will give me the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience beyond shooting and help the youngsters in picking the right sport and excelling in it. Being an elite athlete myself, I understand all aspects of training and the struggles that come with it. I believe our collective knowledge in technical training, sports science, anti-doping, sports compliance coupled with a strong network of partners will help us take Indian sport to greater heights.”

“At the same time, as a member of the Athletes Commission, I would like to educate the budding athletes right from picking their sport to following the values and spirit of sport. Achieving gender parity in Indian sport would be another area I would be looking forward to serving the athletes,” Gagan said.
Shiva Keshavan, only Winter Olympian in the commission, said that he has lent his full support to the chairperson and the deputy. He said all athletes and their rights and issues would be safeguarded by this committee.  “The chairperson and vice chairperson have my full support. We work as a team. We have a big responsibility as we are representing thousands of athletes. I just hope we have the strength to fulfil our responsibilities.

“When I was in the IOA earlier, there was resistance for change. Hopefully this time, we will be able to do it. I must thank the honourable Supreme Court for giving us this responsibility otherwise I don’t think anyone in the IOA would have done this. History will judge us by what we do. Our biggest responsibility first would be to select the SOMs. If any athlete has any problem you can approach me.”

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