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India's Athletics Federation Threaten Action Against Athletes Who Underperform at Tokyo Olympics

The Summer Olympics kicked off with a four-hour opening ceremony in Tokyo on Friday. The Games started with a subdued but celebratory performance by Japanese artists at the National Stadium without spectators to avoid the risk of COVID-19 infections at the Olympic venues.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has warned the country's track and field athletes that action will be taken against them if they underperform at the Tokyo Olympics.

The threat of action from AFI president, Adille Sumariwalla, came after the federation decided against withdrawing the names of long jumper Murali Sreeshankar and 20km race walker Kolothum Thodi (KT) Irfan from the Olympics despite their recent struggles with form.  

He revealed that both Sreeshankar and Irfan have left their coaches unimpressed with their efforts during the fitness trials held in the South Indian city of Bengaluru on Wednesday.

However, Sumariwalla said that despite Sreeshankar and Irfan's underwhelming performance in Bengaluru, the decision not to pull them out of the Games was unanimous.

"The coaches have promised that their respective athletes would give their best in Tokyo. Sreeshankar’s father and coach have assured of good performance from his athlete."
"If athletes do not perform well in the Olympics, we will take action against them," sending a clear message to Indian athletes who have boarded their flights to Tokyo.

Questions were raised about Sreeshankar's selection for the Games because he could only achieve a jump of 7.48m during the fitness trials.

It was a remarkable drop from his best jump of 8.26m, which he had produced at the Federation Cup in March to book his spot for the Olympics in the Japanese capital.  

Vivek Kumar Satti, an athletics coach at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Sonepat in the state of Haryana supported AFI's act of warning their players ahead of their events in Tokyo.

"AFI is right as athletes who underperform despite getting world-class facilities and support from the federation must realise that they are representing the country and wearing the India jersey is not to be taken lightly," Satti told Sputnik on Friday.

However, an Indian Olympian, who spoke to Sputnik on the condition of anonymity, said: "The AFI president has put undue pressure on the athletes with his harsh words, but they should take these words in the right spirit and produce their best Olympic performance ever in Tokyo."

Track and field competitions in Tokyo will start with the Men's 3000m Steeplechase on 30 July.

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