Blackout leaves Indian sprinters’ Olympics dreams in limbo

New Delhi, April 25

Two leading Indian sprinters’ Olympics hopes were up in the air on Monday 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 100m 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 10.16s. Srabani Nandaware won the women’s 100m in 11.23 seconds, apparently breaking the 16-year-old national record of 11.38s and faster than the Rio qualification time of 11.32s. “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,” Mallick was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

The stadium is managed by the Sports Authority of India which was not available for comments. 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,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP. Sunny Joshua, president of the Delhi Athletics Association, which co-hosted the event, said the outage happened just as the competition began. The athletes will have another shot at booking Rio berths during the Federation Cup, slated for April 28-30 at the same venue.