India’s top archers were forced to return from the international airport in Delhi on Saturday morning after their trip to the Medellin World Cup in Colombia had to be canceled due to the closure of Pakistan’s airspace.
Pakistan had closed its airspace after India’s strike on a terror camp in Balakot in February and though it partially opened one flight route this month, curbs are still in place, as the 23-member contingent comprising top archers like Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi, Atanu Das, Tarundeep Rai, and Abhishek Verma found out to its dismay.
Some archers reached the airport only to be told by the airline — KLM Royal Dutch — that they would miss their connecting flight. The archers were flying Delhi-Amsterdam-Bogota. From Bogota, they were booked on a domestic flight to Medellin, venue of the World Cup, which is scheduled from April 22 to 28.
“The KLM airlines staff told us that all their flights were getting delayed by two hours due to the closure of Pakistan’s airspace and that we wouldn’t be able to catch our connecting flight from Bogota,” Deepika told TOI.
Medellin WC would’ve been ideal training event ahead of Worlds
She said that they informed the Archery Association of India (AAI) about the problem.
“The federation tried to book us on different carriers, but couldn’t find seats. In the end, the AAI took the decision to cancel the trip. It’s really sad and disappointing that we missed out on an opportunity to compete in a world-class event. It would have really helped us prepare for the World Championships,” she said.
The World Championships in the Netherlands in June will decide crucial spots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
When asked why the AAI didn’t have prior knowledge about the Pakistan airspace issue, Deepika said, “You need to ask the federation, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the government’s flight booking agent Balmer and Lawrie. We will now return to our national camp in Pune on Sunday.”
It couldn’t be ascertained when the tickets were booked — before the airspace closure or after it. TOI tried to contact AAI president BVP Rao and secretary Maha Singh but their phones were switched off. SAI project officer for archery, Satyadev, didn’t respond to calls.
In March, due to the same issue, India lost the hosting rights of two tennis events — the Junior Davis Cup from April 8 to 13 and the Fed Cup from April 15 to 20.