"I could have died there", said distraught Indian athlete OP Jaisha as she recalled the women's marathon at the Rio Olympics. She said she was not provided any water nor energy drinks by officials despite designated stations being provided for India.
"It was very hot there. The competition was at 9am, I ran in scorching heat. There was no water for us, neither recovery drinks nor food. Only once in 8 km did we get water (from the Rio organisers) which did not help at all. All the countries had their stalls at every 2 km but our country's stall was empty," said Jaisha who finished 89th in the Rio Olympics women's marathon event with a below-par timing of 2:47:19.
Jaisha had collapsed at the finish line after completing the marathon and had to be rushed to a hospital where her coach Nikolai Snesarev got into an altercation with one of the doctors and ended up being detained for half a day by local police.
"We are supposed to be given drinks by our technical officials, it's the rule. We cannot take water from any other team. I saw the Indian board there but there was nothing. I had a lot of problem. I fainted after the race. I was administered glucose, I thought I would die," she recalled.
"My coach was very angry and he ended up arguing with the doctors. The coach thought I was dead. He pushed the doctor to enter my room because he knew he would be held responsible if anything happened to me," she added trying to clear the air on Snesarev's actions.
The runner claimed that she got no response from officials when she asked why water was not provided to her at the stalls.
"I asked officials why there was no water for us but I got no response. I don't know what they were doing. There were a lot of people in the Indian athletics contingent, anybody could have done this job," Jaisha told 'Times Now'.
"I don't know where they were. I was in very bad shape. My coach was blamed for misbehaving with the doctor but he was told Jaisha has almost died, what could he have done?" she asked.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), on its part, said that Indian officials in Rio were not told by the athletes or their coaches about any specific requirement of any drinks.
"It is the responsibility of the organisers to provide water and energy drinks. For that, there are water and energy stations throughout the course. We could have provided water and energy drinks to our athletes but neither they nor their coaches did not inform us that they would need water and energy drinks separately," AFI Secretary CK Valson, who was also in Rio during the competitions, told PTI.
When asked about the incident, sports minister Vijay Goel said it was the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) responsibility.
"Every time any small incident happens, we take note. It was AFI's job, it is the federation which should have taken care of this," he said.
The athlete on her part said she has no clue who to hold responsible for the fiasco.
"I don't know who to blame for this. Maybe nobody realises the seriousness of a marathon, the fact that we have to run 42kms," she said.
Valson also said that 3000m steeplechase runner Sudha Singh had collected medicines from the Games Village polyclinic just a day before her departure from Rio.
"Jaisha was treated at the Games Village polyclinic after she fainted at the finish line of the marathon race. Sudha Singh also complained just a day before her departure from Rio that she was not feeling well and she also collected medicines from the polyclinic," Valson said.
"But all these are minor illness and we have not been informed of any major or serious illness. Otherwise, how would have they returned home after a long journey without any problem," said Valson, who reached the country early today.