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Insensitive approach?

Insensitive approach?
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"I don't know when I will return to the mat. Maybe I won't. I feel I was better off with that broken leg. I had something to correct. Now my body is not broken, but I'm truly broken." This comes contrary to the wide applause our Olympic medal winners have received. These words from Vinesh Phogat — who was labelled one of India's brightest hopes for the Tokyo Olympics — should break each Indian heart. It has to be admitted that India failed in providing a revered reception to its valiant contenders who went blood, sweat and tears for winning glory for themselves and the nation. The entire pomp and show to receive the winners is maligned with Phogat's outpourings. The blame has to be shared by all when she said "they did not even let me regret my loss." As Vinesh Phogat returned back India 'empty-handed' a temporary ban was waiting for her on the account of indiscipline. The allegation was that Vinesh Phogat did not train with the team and wore a different jersey. What followed was insensitive media coverage of the issue. But she had already cleared that she was not training with the team for the fear of catching the virus or infecting others with the virus. The wrestler has been twice infected with COVID-19 since August last year. Her expressed concerns were not around mental health which are still a less talked about issue, it was around something as lethal as the Coronavirus. Compare the situation with Simone Biles opting out of the Olympics citing mental health issues. This was lauded by a majority of people, media houses and institutions. What makes the situation different in the case of Vinesh Phogat? Even if institutional bans are part of the due process, there must have been greater sensitivity in applying the same. If a sportsperson deviates from prescribed rules, the first step should be towards ascertaining the cause of her deviation. The extraordinary mental stress the sportspersons and athletes undergo during highly competitive games has to be considered while following the process. Grand reception of winners was only half work done, the remaining half should have been the caressing and counselling of our very own athletes who despite entirely investing themselves in the games could not touch the finishing line. It won't be an exaggeration to say that it should rather have been a notch higher priority. If a society or nation has the right to put somebody on a higher pedestal of expectations, it becomes its responsibility to hold the person if they fail. India sent a contingent of 127 athletes and not everybody could have won. Somebody had to come empty-handed. It is unfortunate that the wrestler had to come out publicly and give a justification of what happened to her on the mat and what she was going through. She had to enumerate her physical complications. Was it needed? She didn't owe us such justifications. It is shameful that she had to come out to defend her coach. But still, Vinesh Phogat should be thanked that she spoke — because many sportspersons and athletes might be silently bracing the negative impacts of stigma arising out of defeat in competitive games. Her voice should be considered as representing those. As India looks to increase its footprints in the arena of competitive games including the Olympics, it should focus on certain key issues. Firstly, the mental health of athletes should be recognised and prioritised in view of ever-increasing competition and expectations in sporting events. It will not just help them boost their performance but, most importantly, allow the sportsperson hold their due dignity. The second thing that is most important is to make the involved agencies more tolerant, sensitive and transparent. And lastly, there is a need to urge media houses to behave more responsibly and sensitively while propagating judgements on the underperformance of athletes. Essentially, there is a need to recognise the trauma that a sportsperson might be going through after big defeats. They represent us on the global platform. Let us cherish their successes and failures together, standing by them in all circumstances.

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