Top athletes find strange reasons to skip Nationals

India's No. 1 woman long jumper Rintu and Federation Cup triple jump champion Praveen are among those who will miss the meet.

High jumper Rubina Yadav with her coach Anil Kumar Yadav. (File Photo)   -  Stan Rayan

He shocked Asian Games champion triple jumper Arpinder Singh for the Federation Cup gold in Patiala early this year.

But surprisingly, Youth Olympics bronze medallist Praveen Chithravel will miss the National Inter-State Athletics Championships, a qualification meet for next month's Doha Worlds, which begins in Lucknow on Tuesday.

And a bit of confusion appears be the reason behind the big miss.

“The (national body) AFI had changed the rule recently, if as a junior you participate in a senior meet, you cannot compete in a junior meet any more. But the junior meet is a qualification competition for next year's under-20 Worlds,” said Antony Yaich, the head coach of JSW's Inspire Institute of Sports near Bellary where Chithravel trains.

“So Praveen and woman high jumper Rubina Yadav, even if she is ready to jump 1.85m, will not be taking part in the inter-state meet.”

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But the AFI has not introduced such a rule. It is just a proposal and the national federation has formed a committee to study it.

When this was explained to Yaich, he said, “I am fine with that, the focus for Praveen and Rubina will be the junior Worlds.”

Meanwhile D. Arivuselvam, the country's third best triple jumper last year (personal best 16.49m), has also decided to skip the meet to focus on next month's Services meet in Pune.

“I had to attend a few classes conducted by the Army so I could not prepare properly, that's why I'm not going to Lucknow. But I will go for the Services meet, it is more important for me,” said the Armyman from Tamil Nadu.

Mohammed Salahuddin has progressed impressively this year and is now the country's No. 1 triple jumper with his 16.64m at Almaty (Kazakhstan) but Yaich feels Arpinder is ready for a 17m jump in Lucknow and qualify for this September's Worlds in Doha.

That apart, strangely a lot of very promising triple jumpers currently appear to be down with injuries or just recovering from them.

UP's Mohammed Zuber suffered a ligament tear after taking silver (16.21m) in Almaty last month while Maharashtra's Jay Shah, the best athlete with his 16.36m jump at the varsities National last year, has also decided skip the inter-state after missing many training sessions following a heel injury.

Meanwhile, Asian junior champion Kamal Raj, who was fifth in last year's under-20 Worlds in Finland, is recovering from an injury.

“I have a crack in the ankle, only if it is cured I can jump properly so I've decided not to go to Lucknow,” said the 20-year-old (personal best 16.41m).

Surprisingly, that did not stop Raj from winning the all-India inter-Railway gold with a 15.49m effort in Pune the other day.

Incidentally, there was no dope testing at the Railway meet.

Another athlete, Rintu Mathew jolted Asian Games silver medallist V. Neena and won the women's long jump gold in the Railway meet with a personal best 6.42m. That made Rintu the country's best long jumper this year but the Kerala-born athlete has also opted to miss Lucknow.

“I have been selected for the World Railway meet from September 10 in the Czech Republic and we have the camp in Delhi so I've decided to skip inter-state.”

Interestingly, Tamil Nadu's Chandralekha who took the 100m title in the Railway meet with a personal best 11.47s – and became the country's second fastest woman this year behind Dutee Chand (11.26s) – will also be missing from action in Lucknow.

That raises the big question: Is there another big reason for the athletes staying away?