New Delhi:Indian boxers looking to book their qualifying berths for the Beijing Olympics have been hindered by the cancellation of their exposure trips.
This has left them a bit short on practice and that might impact badly on their participation in the world championships - the first of the Olympic qualifiers.
Gold medallist from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth games, Akhil Kumar prepares for his round at a practice session in the capital. Akhil, and seven other Indian pugilists are due to leave for Kazaksthan on a three-week exposure trip.
But they're lucky they're even getting to go. One such trip to Ukraine was cancelled last month since the Boxing Federation didn't get a government sanction on time.
The Sports Ministry which sat over the proposal for over a month, refused to comment on the matter. Their explanation is that such proposals and tournaments keep coming throughout the year, and one isolated event shouldn't be picked up to tarnish their image.
But the fact is that the Sports Authority of India has included boxing as a priority one sport in its Master Plan. In fact, it's these trips and tournaments that are a part of the preparation process for the Beijing Olympics, which is just 400 days away.
Not enough competitions
"We aren't getting enough competitions to participate in. Our first qualifiers are in USA, and it's going to be quite tough, we need more competitions for that, so that we can change partners. We would like more competitions, but I don't have an answer as to why aren't getting them," said pugilist Akhil Kumar.
And that isn't the only problem. The team returned with a record seven medals from the Asian Championships in Mongolia last month. Not only was the trip cleared at the last minute, it was sponsored by a bank.
"Our real problem right now is the non-release of funds by the Ministry, whereby we may even have to cancel some of our forthcoming tournaments for example, the Commonwealth Championships for which we'll be sending a team towards the end of July," said Col PK Muralidharan Raja, Secratary, IABF.
The Sports Ministry is waiting for the Federation to clear bills and dues, some of which are 20-years old. But the Federation claims to have cleared them already.
This tussle in turn pours cold water over the preparations of the boxers, who're targetting the World Championships in October, which are also the Olympic qualifiers.