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Officials ground skier Jagdish's Olympic dream, for now

Jagdish Singh (above) and Shiva Keshavan are the only Indians to have qualified for the 2018 Winter Games. Photo courtesy of Jagdish Singh

The Indian contingent left for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Saturday night without one of its two athletes.

Caught in a wrangle among the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI), the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and his employer, the Indian Army, over who will accompany him to South Korea, cross-country Nordic skier Jagdish Singh's hopes of a debut at the Olympics are in a state of flux. Luger Shiva Keshavan is the only other Indian athlete to have qualified for the Games.

Officers at the Gulmarg-based High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), where Jagdish trains, are miffed at the IOA not considering the names they sent -- of officials from their unit -- to accompany the athlete to South Korea. In protest, they have refused to send Jagdish with the official contingent. This, after the WGFI's top two office-bearers proposed their own names for the trip instead of the athlete's coach.

A senior officer at HAWS assured that they would make arrangements for Jagdish to travel for the Games before the opening ceremony on February 9. Jagdish's event is scheduled for February 16.

The IOA, however, is not amused. "Instead of forwarding us the athlete's coach's name as the travelling member, they have sent us names of two other officers whose role in the athlete's training we are not certain of," IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told ESPN. "We have been repeatedly requesting them to send us an affidavit declaring that the names proposed are involved in coaching, but we are yet to receive any such communication from their end. We cannot just clear any random names they send us. The athlete's chance is being ruined by all this."

Keshavan, too, has tried to intervene in the matter and broker a truce. "I was at the IOA office to pick up my uniform just after I heard of this mess," he told ESPN. "I spoke to the federation and requested them to resolve this issue so that the athlete does not suffer. It's pretty sad what's happening."

For now, Jagdish's fate hangs in the balance and his Olympic dream awaits its turn.