AFI to focus on promising athletes ahead of Olympics

The AFI believes Asian Games double silver medallist Dharun Ayyasamy, long jumper M. Sreeshankar and the gold medal-winning women’s 4x400m relay team can do well in Tokyo.

Dharun Ayyasamy celebrates victory after taking the runner-up position in the men's 400m hurdles at the Asian Games in Jakarta.   -  Getty Images

The success of the country’s young athletes at the 2018 Asian Games has prompted the Athletics Federation of India to focus on those with the potential and scope to improve ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In addition to javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson, the AFI believes Dharun Ayyasamy, who won silver in the 400m hurdles and was part of the silver-winning men’s 4x400m relay team, long jumper M. Sreeshankar, who finished sixth in the continental event, and the gold medal-winning women’s 4x400m relay team that included the promising Hima Das can do well at the Olympics.

The AFI has submitted a roadmap with the names of such athletes to the government.

“In javelin, we are at a catching distance (from the elite throwers). Johnson can improve and do well,” AFI secretary C. K. Valson told The Hindu on the sidelines of the 58th National Open Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Indian women’s 4x400m relay team has not looked capable of making it to the finals at the last three Olympics, the AFI believes the quarter-milers can land a medal at the mega event.

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“Anything can happen in a relay race. It’s a particular day’s race. Most of our girls are young and we have got another two years (for the Olympics),” Valson said.

While high jumper Tejaswin Shankar and Asian Games gold medallist triple jumper Arpinder Singh have also drawn the AFI’s attention, the federation is looking to add new talent from the ongoing national open meet.

Valson added that taking part in elite competitions will help the athletes. “Neeraj is already getting the Diamond League and other top competitions. Johnson needs those. Others also need to compete in such events in order to raise their performance,” he said.

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