AFI announces 31-member squad for CWG

The final list of 31 – 18 men and 13 women – includes 15 who managed to achieve the qualification mark at the end of four-day competition in Patiala, excluding the relay teams. The AFI stuck to its decision of not considering the 4x100m team.

Long jumper M. Sreeshankar has been named in the athletics squad for CWG.   -  K. Ragesh

With the Federation Cup, the final qualifying event for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, ending on Thursday, the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) selection committee announced a 31-member squad on Saturday.

While the official announcement was delayed, the list, however, was reportedly sent to the sports ministry on Friday itself since March 9 was the last day to send entries by name to the organisers.

With the AFI setting strict qualification marks for the athletes – the bronze-medal finish at the previous edition in 2014 was taken as the benchmark with some of them even better than long-standing national records – it was always going to be difficult for the athletes to make the cut. As expected, the AFI has preferred to leave six quota places unutilised rather than fill them up with names that have little chance of performing well in Gold Coast.

The final list of 31 – 18 men and 13 women – includes 15 who managed to achieve the qualification mark at the end of four-day competition in Patiala, excluding the relay teams. The AFI stuck to its decision of not considering the 4x100m team.

“The inclusion of the relay team was done more in terms of exposure than any realistic hopes of a medal. Earlier what used to happen was, if we have a competition, then we field them for Asian Games etc. But that is not sufficient. Too many disqualifications recently is also a reason. They need to get used to baton exchange. We want to give them more exposure but the competitions they will be entered in will be planned after the Commonwealth Games,” AFI secretary-general CK Valson said.

Among those who came close to the mark and have been named in the squad include long jumper M. Sreeshankar, Jinson Jhonson in the 500m,
heptathlete Purnima Hembram and long jumper Neena Pinto. The AFI has also included Vipin Kasana even though the javelin thrower is struggling with back pain and pulled out of the Federation Cup. Also finding his name on the list was triple jumper Rakesh Babu AV, who missed the qualification mark by 1 cm in the Indian Grand Prix.

The concern for the AFI now would be to ensure accreditation in time for those athletes whose names did not figure in the provisional list sent way back in December. AFI officials confirmed they were working on the matter and were hopeful of managing the same soon.

The squad
Men: Arpinder Singh and Rakesh Babu AV (triple jump), Jinson Jhonson (1500m), Dharun Ayyasamy (400m hurdles and 4x400m
relay), Tejaswin Shankar and Siddharth Yadav (high jump), Neeraj Chopra and Vipin Kasana (javelin throw), M. Sreeshankar (long jump), Tejinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put), KT Irfan and Manish Rawat (20km walk), Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Jeevan K. Suresh, Amoj Jacob, Kunhu Mohammed, Jithu Baby, Arokiya Rajiv (4x400m relay).
Women: L. Suriya (10000m), Hima Das (200m, 400m, 4x400m relay), Seema Punia and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (discus throw), Nayana James and Neena Pinto (long jump), Sowmya B and Khushbir Kaur (20km walk), Purnima Hembram (heptathlon), MR Poovamma, Sonia Baishya, Saritaben Gayakwad, Jauna Murmu (4x400m relay).