2018 Asian Games gold medallist Arpinder Singh has expressed surprise and dissatisfaction on being dropped from the Sports Authority of India's TOPS list last week. The newly-released TOPS core list added eight new names while Arpinder was the only one to be dropped.
The triple jumper said that an SAI official informed him over the phone of his exclusion from the list while the drop in performance was given the reason.
However, the 27-year-old national record holder (17.17m) has argued that the reason was unjustified as there has been no tournament to perform in since March's COVID-19 lockdown.
"I am really disappointed at being dropped from the TOPS list. We are just two months away from first competition (AFI national meets tentatively planned from February) and I was given this news over the phone which was really demoralising," Arpinder told Indiatvnews.com. "I am unable to understand how my performance was factored in with no tournaments in the last one year due to lockdown."
A look at the new entrants in the lists — namely sprinter Dutee Chand (100m), javelin throwers Shivpal Singh and Annu Rani, racewalker KT Irfan, and lastly 400m relay runners Arokia Rajiv, Nirmal Noah Tom, Alex Anthony, MR Poovamma — suggests that athletes have been picked on the basis of their performances prior to the lockdown.
Dutee, in her quest for chasing the 11.15 seconds qualifying mark, posted national record timing of 11.22 seconds at the Open Nationals in Ranchi last year. Javelin throwers Shivpal and Annu have been consistent performers with the former already qualifying for the Olympics just before the lockdown. Irfan, on the other hand, is also the first Indian track and field to qualify for Tokyo.
400m runners Nirmal and Alex have also been nation's second and third fast quarter milers behind national record holder Mohammed Anas and have been an integral part of the men's and mixed relay teams.
A look at Arpinder's performances, during the same period, seems to justify his exclusion given he hasn't breached the 17.00m mark since 2018 Open Nationals in Guwahati while missing out on a 2019 World Championship berth, whose qualifying mark was set at 17.05.
He last competed at two off-season tournaments in South Africa in January — during a short training camp with his former coach Anthony Yaich — and could only produce a performance of 15.97m. However, it will be too harsh to judge him based on off-season competitions.
But Arpinder isn't the sole non-performing athlete in the list. Inclusion of Arokia, who hasn't competed since Asian Championships last year due to injury and retaining names like 400m star Hima Das, Tajinder Pal Singh Toor leave few question marks.
Hima, who was expectedly retained for being part of the 400m relay team, have been reeling with mysterious injuries since 2019 Asian Championships and hasn't competed in her forte event since August last year.
Shot putter Tajinder is also finding it hard to breach the 21.10m qualifying mark with 20.92 at 2019 Open Nationals in Ranchi being his sole best performance beyond 20.50 mark.
All hopes are not lost as far as Arpinder is concerned as SAI officials have ensured him that he will be inducted back in the list if his performance improved at the national events next year.