How Para-Lifter Sakina Khatun Had to Fight For CWG 2018 Spot

Twenty-eight-year-old Khatun is the only Indian para-athlete to clinch a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

3 min read
Sakina Khatun is the only Indian para-athlete to clinch a medal at the CWG.

Sakina Khatun is all set to represent India in the upcoming Commonwealth Games, but the para-powerlifter’s journey to earning that spot has not been of the conventional kind. In fact, when India's contingent for the para-sports team was announced, Khatun’s name wasn’t even on it.

But before we dive into how she ended up getting a spot for the quadrennial games, here’s a brief look at who Sakina Khatun is.

Who is Sakina Khatun?

Born in Bangalore on 20 June 1989, Khatun got polio as infant. She went on to win a bronze in the women’s lightweight (up to 61kg) category in the 2014 Commonwealth Games after lifting a total weight of 88.2kg. The 28-year-old is the only Indian para-athlete to clinch a medal at the CWG.

Khatun recently won a silver in the upto 45kg event of the Para Powerlifting World Cup, after lifting 80kgs. She is currently ranked second in the CWG and Asian rankings.

Sakina’s 2018 CWG Qualification

Despite being eligible for the Gold Coast CWG, to be held from 4-15 April, Khatun did not initially feature in the Indian para-sport team. Distressed, she had threatened to commit suicide if she wasn’t allowed to take part in the Games. The para-lifter even wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting his intervention in the matter.

“I am Sakina Khatun, a para powerlifter CWG 2014 Glasgow and Asian championship medallist. Presently, I am second in Commonwealth Ranking and I am covered under TOPS scheme of Government of India. I am the only para women athlete who secured a CWG medal till date. I’m proud to introduce myself as a trainee of COE scheme of SAI Bangalore since four years,” wrote Khatun in her letter to the PM.

With all these credentials I am striving to win yet another medal for our country, but surprisingly I found my name is missing from the list of CWG contingent Gold Coast, despite achieving qualifying standards prescribed by the CWG criteria. With this, I’m very much pained and literally all my dreams of making my mother India proud are going to be shattered.
Sakina Khatuna’s letter to PM Modi

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had then swung into action and requested the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to allow Khatun's participation in the Games. It also blamed the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) for Khatun's exclusion from the country's team for Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The IOA said that the PCI did not send Khatun's name before deadline despite repeated reminders.

CGF had then granted the 28-year-old a conditional slot in view of the "exceptional circumstances" she had faced.

"The CGF confirmed that, with the agreement of IPC (International Paralympic Committee), that, given the exceptional circumstances, Ms Sakina Khatun should be awarded a conditional slot in women's lightweight Para Powerlifting event at the Games. The CGF asked CGA India to confirm acceptance of the conditional slot, which it has now done," a statement from the CGF said.

The IOA had accepted the conditional slot while accepting CGF's demand to send a report from a recognised medical professional demonstrating her mental well-being to compete in the multi-sport event.

"As such, the slot is conditional on the CGF receiving confirmation from CGA India that a report has been provided by a recognised medical professional demonstrating the athlete’s mental well-being is such that she can cope with the associated pressures of competing on the international stage," a spokesperson of the CGF said.

India must provide this confirmation to the CGF by 2 March and IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said this will be done.

"We will do the necessary procedure and send the report before deadline," Mehta told PTI.

The CGF also stated its genuine concerns for the mental well-being of Khatun, noting the severity of her response to her non-selection and her alleged position to conduct self-harm if the matter was not addressed.

"The CGF confirmed that it reserves the right to withdraw the slot if CGA India fails to submit this confirmation and/or the information provided does not satisfy the CGFs concerns in respect to the well-being of the athlete. The CGF is currently awaiting the medical report, but has received assurances from CGA India that the documentation will be provided by the deadline," the CGF said in the statement.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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