Athletics Federation of India aims big in Olympics

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) feels an elusive Olympic medal may be within the country’s grasp at the Tokyo Games next year if all goes to plan.

Neeraj Chopra shone brightly in 2018, securing gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.   -  PTI

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) feels an elusive Olympic medal may be within the country’s grasp at the Tokyo Games next year if all goes to plan.

“It may sound far-fetched at the moment, but we in the AFI feel that we have a larger group of athletes who are capable of entering the medal bracket now,” said deputy chief national coach P. Radhakrishnan Nair. “(Javelin thrower) Neeraj Chopra, (long jumper) M. Sreeshankar, the relay squads and (shot putter) Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, if he can cross 21m, are all capable of winning medals at the Olympics.”

“Our preparation started four years ago soon after the Rio Olympics. We are providing the best facilities to the athletes and we have chalked out our training and competition schedule in such a way to ensure that they get enough exposure before the Olympics,” he added.

Radhakrishnan said the 400m runners, hurdlers and jumpers will be be based at the Kariavattom’s Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education in Kerala, where a camp will run from November 1 to February 1, following which the athletes will compete in a sports meet at Antayla’s Gloria Sports Centre, Turkey’s biggest sports facility. They will also compete in meets between May 1 and June 5, and will travel to Spala in Poland and Prague in the Czech Republic for training.

India’s javelin throwers will train in South Africa from January 2 to March 31, will compete in domestic meets after that, then return to South Africa to train from May 1 to June 30.

The Indian athletics contingent will train and compete in Osaka, Japan, over 20 days in July.

Meanwhile, middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson and steeplechaser Avinash Sable will shift base from Bengaluru to Colorado Springs in the US to train at the American Distance Project with coach Scott Simmons. “This will benefit by training at a high-altitude centre, which is 2,700ft above sea level,” said Radhakrishnan.

The deputy chief national coach also said the federation will be getting stricter on athletes skipping national camps.