Judoka Jasleen Stuck in Georgia For 3 Months With No Govt Support

Judoka Jasleen Singh Saini has been struck in Georgia for the last 3 months, with no support from the Government.

3 min read

Jasleen Singh Saini, 22, landed in Georgia on 10 March, ready to start the final leg of his Tokyo Olympics’ qualification process. Within a few days, the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic and the country shut down its borders before the judoka could make plans to return back home.

"When we landed here, within 10 days, all borders were sealed due to coronavirus. The tournaments also got cancelled. Because of that, I had to stay back here itself,” says the judoka, who was primed to bag a continental quota and become the first Indian in his discipline to qualify for the Tokyo games.

Three months have passed, the Olympics have been postponed to 2021 but he is still in the same foreign land, waiting for the local authorities to intimate him of a repatriation flight.

Having paid out of pocket to represent India in international Olympic qualification tournaments for the last year, the Judo Federation not reaching out to assist Jasleen is nothing new to him.

"Since I have landed here, there has been no contact with the Federation. There has been no financial support from the Federation. All plans to come to Georgie and all the support was given by JSW and my coach too has been supporting me. Now, we’re at the coach’s village, Akhmeta. The coach’s wife, sister and mother are all here and they take care of our food and everything,” he said.

This lack of support from the Federation, even for an athlete on the cusp of booking an Olympic berth, is nothing new in the Indian judo fraternity. Before the Rio Olympics, The Quint had covered the story of judoka Avtar Singh, who had also booked a berth in the games despite the lack of support.

For Jasleen, the story in no different. He’s had to pay out of his parents’ savings to participate in qualification tournaments before and, earlier this year, his situation was so dire that his competitors stepped up to help him.

"We had two competitions in February, the Paris Grand Prix and the Dusseldorf Grand Slam. We were told the government would pay expenses for the Paris Grand Prix but we were told to pay ourselves for the Dusseldorf Grand Slam. To qualify for the Olympics, all these competitions were important. I have two friends (fellow judokas), one from Togo and one from Zambia, I told them my problems. They were already staying there in Paris and training. They helped me said I could stay with them," he said.

While his years of hard work may have gone unnoticed by the powers that be in Indian sport, his perseverance didn’t go unnoticed and JSW Sport stepped up, just when he was about to give up.

“My father is a teacher in a Government college and my mother is a housewife. They have never let me feel like there was shortage of money. Last year too, I took part in 6-7 tournaments that I paid for myself. My parents always told me they had money and that I should go and compete. But I’m also grown up, I can also see there isn’t money at home. There was a time when I had decided I would compete in my last competition and then I wouldn’t spend my own money to take part. Just a few days after that I got a call from JSW’s coach asking if I wanted to come on board. I agreed because things like this is what players need. Since then, JSW has been supporting me fully," says Jasleen in a video message sent from Georgia.

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