Disabled Female Athlete Held From Going To Championship ‘Alone’ Like It’s The 1800s
Last week, the Indian contingent of the women’s hockey team, scripted a historic moment for the country by being among the top four women’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics. Even as we continue to celebrate the 16 female athletes behind the achievement, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has recently dropped Sameeha Barwin, an athlete with disabilities, from the roster of participants for a world championship in Poland, allegedly because of her gender.
“I was told that they cannot send my daughter alone as she is only a female athlete and also arrangements cannot be made for an escort due to shortage of funds,” Salamath, Barwin’s mother, told The News Minute. “My daughter is an excellent athlete. And the federation has wronged Sameeha by dropping her for such silly reasons,” she added.
Reportedly, the 18-year-old athlete from Tamil Nadu, who lives with a 90% hearing impairment, is a three-time national gold medalist in deaf athletic championships, and is also a world record-holder in the 100-meter track after breaking a 1986-record.
Barwin has already cleared the qualifying rounds to participate in the 4th World Deaf Athletics Championship to be held later this month. But according to the SAI, what’s stopping her from going to Poland is her gender. In truth, what’s actually stopping her is patriarchy and its infantilization of women with disabilities. It also shows just how little confidence athletes with disabilities are bestowed with.
Barwin is losing out on an opportunity that could probably advance her sports career. What good does this do those who celebrate national victories? SAI is holding back a world-record-holding, domestic gold medalist from representing us globally.
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Moreover, across the world, women athletes are already underfunded and undervalued. For a female athlete to qualify despite the systemic disregard for women’s sports on a patronizing notion is outrageous.
The SAI, however, has dismissed the allegations stating that her performance in the qualifying rounds “wasn’t up to the mark” which directly contradicts her qualification for the event.
V. Vijaykumar, an MP from Kanyakumari took up her exclusion from the roster of participants with the Union Sports Ministry, but was told it’s too late to do anything now. The contingent doesn’t leave for Poland until August 14.
“What we want is transparency and justice for the athlete and her mother. And we want the National Federation and Union Sports Ministry to give us a reply in writing,” Padmini Chennapragada, a disability sports researcher, told Sportstar.
At its very core, the SAI’s refusal to organize Barwin’s departure is an unfortunate addition to the sportswomen having to prove themselves to an unnecessary “boys’ club”. Not to mention, fighting the infantilization, perhaps, of her disability.