Two leading Indian sprinters’ Olympics hopes were up in the air today after a power cut during a qualifying event meant their apparently record-breaking performances could not be officially classified.
The outage during Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix led to farcical scenes, with organisers having to use hand-held clocks to record the times after electronically powered digital timers and wind gauges packed up.
Four new national records were clocked at the event in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, while two athletes ran below the qualifying time for the Rio games beginning in August.
But their joy was short-lived when it was confirmed their times would not be ratified and they would instead have to try again at another event later this week.
Amiya Kumar Mallick was timed running the 100 metres in 10.09 seconds, which not only shattered the national record by 0.21 seconds but was also quicker than the Olympic qualification mark of 10.16 seconds.
Srabani Nandaware won the women’s 100 metres in 11.23 seconds, apparently breaking the 16-year-old national record of 11.38 seconds and faster than the Rio qualification time of 11.32 seconds.
“It’s disappointing because I know I had run a quick time. But it will not count for anything because the electronic timing was not working,” said Mallick.
The stadium, which was built for the 1982 Asian Games and was the main venue for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, is managed by the Sports Authority of India which was not immediately available for comments on Monday.
But an official at the Athletics Federation of India, which organised the event, said stadium administrators had blamed the blackout on a transformer fire.
“There were generators there but still they said there is no back up,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sunny Joshua, president of the Delhi Athletics Association which co-hosted the event, said the outage happened just as the competition began.
“It happened all a sudden just before the start of the meet. We didn’t even get the back up, so it was very disappointing,” said Joshua.
“But let’s not play the blame game. I don’t think anybody would do this on purpose. It has happened for the first time in 30 odd years, so I hope it’s just a one-time incident,” he added.
The athletes will have another shot at booking a Rio berth during the Federation Cup, which is due to be held at the same venue from April 28-30.