Ambulance on call, medical team, rolling chair … the arrangements that went behind Harika’s dream

Express News Service

CHENNAI: “It’s been 18 years since my debut in the Indian women’s chess team at the age of 13, and having played nine Olympiads so far, I always dreamt about being on the podium for Indian women’s team and finally made it this time,” penned D Harika, in an emotional post on social media.

“It’s more emotional because I made it at nine months of pregnancy. When I heard about the Olympiad being held in India and when my doctor said that it’s possible to play if I stay healthy without any complications since then my life revolved around making it to the Olympiad and winning the medal.”

While the 31-year-old made everything possible to realise her dreams, the wider Indian contingent worked in the background to ensure everything went smoothly, considering she’s in the final trimester. An ambulance was on standby and a cardiologist was a phone call away.  

“She is accompanied by her husband and mother,” delegation head, Pravin Thipsay, told this daily on the penultimate day of the Olympiad.

“Any time she has labour pain, she can be shifted to a hospital within 10 minutes.” While Harika didn’t get the wins, she played her role to perfection not losing a single game. “She played her role to perfection. As top seeds, we needed to get at least 2.5 points. The lower boards were scoring higher and the top boards were trying to maintain equilibrium.”

Thipsay revealed that Harika, one of only two Indian women to have become a GM, faced some discomfort with the table.

The organisers immediately added some cushioning to her side of the table to ensure her well-being.

In fact, she was given a rolling chair as well so that she could move around (other players had normal white office chairs with an armrest).

The women’s A team were also the only Indian team to be put up to ensure she didn’t have to travel on cars and buses every day.

“Only 60 rooms were available here (at the venue),” he said.

“It was difficult to accommodate everybody. AICF was left with very few rooms. They decided to give the rooms to this team because otherwise it would have been very difficult for the players to meet. It is better for the team to stay at the venue because there is a medical team at the reception at all times.”

The apartment she was given — she was at the venue with her husband and mother — was also the first one so it could be easily accessed by a stretcher.

“She has been given the first apartment so the stretcher can go there directly. The entire process wouldn’t take a lot of time. Even if there are symptoms, there would be nothing to worry about.”Thankfully, it went smoothly as she played her part in a historic bronze.

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