KOLKATA/BENGALURU: Two days after SSP Chawrasia hit out at the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the sports ministry for not receiving the full amount of the promised Rs 30-lakh earmarked during the preparatory phase of the Rio Olympics, the Kolkata-based golfer got the backing of the country’s top pro, Anirban Lahiri.
“Everything that SSP had said is accurate, he is not embellishing any facts,” the 29-year-old Lahiri, who is gearing up for the season ahead on the PGA Tour, told TOI from Florida.
“It has been four months and the ministry has got the paperwork done. While I managed to get Rs 5.5 lakh so far, Lahiri has not received even a penny,” Chawrasia was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the season-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship in Kolkata on Wednesday. “I am still awaiting the reimbursement. I have got zero rupees from the government of India. I had to pay from my own pocket to be an Olympian!” Lahiri said. “I have spent for the golf bags, golf shoes and head cover. No progress has been reported nor does it look like it will ever come,” lamented the world No. 77, who plans to return to competition at the Sony Open in Hawaii next month.
“I have sent everything, including four different kinds of bills. I have sent it to Sports Authority of India, to the Indian Golf Union and to the IOA. We have done whatever had been asked. The issue of noncompliance does not arise,” Lahiri said, adding that he only received the daily allowance for the seven days he was in Rio.
The Bengaluru golfer, who finished an impressive tied-fifth at the PGA Championship in 2015, the best ever finish by an Indian in a Major, said that he is not sure whether the reimbursement will come through.
“I am not in a position to chase it. I have written it off, not my Rio experience, but my experience of dealing with the IOA and the SAI officials. It is a waste of my time, I would rather spend that time on my golf,” said Lahiri, who narrowly missed winning his maiden PGA title two months ago in Malaysia.
“We all got a letter about the Rs 30-lakh grant, but when we came back from Rio they said that quota has been cut down to Rs 15 lakh. But I knew from the start that they were trying their best not to give even one rupee. SSP’s friend had made 10 or 15 trips to SAI, called at least 40-50 times, chased 3-4 different officials and after all that he has got a reimbursement of Rs 5.5 lakh,” Lahiri said.
The ace golfer also seconded what Chawrasia said about the facilities at Rio. “There were no proper arrangements made. It was freezing cold and kept raining and they did not even arrange an umbrella or raincoat for us. They would behave as if they were ‘maalik’ (owners) and we were their ‘naukars’ (servants),” Chawrasia had claimed.
“South America in August is winter. We got zero pieces of winter clothing, no sweaters, no rain jackets, and no golf gear. SSP almost froze to death on the second day because he was the first to tee off. He played in the rain, in the track suit, he was drenched, he could have caught a cold and got sick,” he said. “Weather was a major issue. The apparel and the equipment that we were provided was bad, it is pitiful. You wouldn’t wear it if somebody gave it to you for free.”