Asian Athletics Championships: Signs not good for India

National chief coach, Bahadur Singh, predicts 20 medals but injuries and poor preparation could hurt India at the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in Doha.

Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion Neeraj Chopra will be missed at the Asian Athletics Championship in Doha.   -  PTI

After the high at the Jakarta Asian Games last year, when the country won 19 medals including seven gold and 10 silver, one gets the strange feeling that Indian athletics is suddenly down as it travels to Doha for the Asian Championships which begins on Sunday.

The big names missing are World No. 4 javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, 800m runner Manjit Singh – both with injuries – and triple jumper Arpinder Singh, who failed to qualify. All of them were gold medalists at the Asian Games.

Also missing out due to injury is quarter-miler A. Dharun, who has been on a national record-breaking spree in the hurdles, while other Asiad silver medallists, steeple-chaser Sudha Singh and long jumper Neena Pinto, were nowhere close to their Asian Games form.

Tamil Nadu distance runner G. Lakshmanan, the last Asians’ big star in Bhubaneswar with a golden 5000-10,000m double, could not even finish among the medals in last month’s Federation Cup, the Asians’ main qualification meet.

“It’s really tough, you feel like you’ve reached a certain stage and suddenly fall down,” Dharun, who has a shin bone stress fracture, told Sportstar from his home near Coimbatore on Friday.

The Asian Athletics Championships will provide Tajinder Pal Singh Toor a fine chance to grab a gold in Doha.   -  PTI

 

Dharun, who will be out of action for three months, was just talking of his plight but it could also sum up Indian athletics’ current situation.

After the Jakarta Asian Games, the Athletics Federation of India’s President Adille Sumariwalla had boldly proclaimed that India was an Asian superpower and now needed to focus on the Olympics and the Worlds. And as some big names fumbled in recent meets, the national federation maintained that the Asians were not important.

With names like Neeraj Chopra, M. Sreeshankar, Tejaswin Shankar and Hima Das, India certainly has athletes who could do well in next year’s Tokyo Olympics and in Paris 2024 but by letting the Asian opportunity slip, the federation has probably pulled out a few rungs from the long ladder that could take the country to the top.

Bahadur Singh, the chief national coach, did not sound very positive as he spoke about the country’s gold medal chances in Doha.

“Don’t ask me particularly about gold because this is a period (early season) when nobody can be sure who will finish first or second. But our medal tally will be something like 20, like in the Asiad, plus or minus two,” he said.

“We will certainly win gold medals, our relay teams are strong, we are strong in shot put (Tajinder Pal Singh Toor) too. If there are no golds, they will be silver but the chances are good that we will get gold,” he added.

But have the preparations been good? “From our side, from the SAI and federation’s side, the preparations were good but if your athletes are on leave often, going for awards and prize-money functions, that is not very encouraging,” said Bahadur.

“Hima Das was away (from the camp) for 40 days, she has given exams and other things as reasons,” he added.

But the conditions were also not ideal for the athletes. “The new blue track in Patiala (the Federation Cup venue) is very hard,” said Dharun, who was not the only athlete to complain about it.

“And our training track is uneven, in some spots it is bulging as if there are air bubbles inside, you don’t get much grip on that. May be, that could also be a reason (for his injury returning),” he added.

With Doha hosting the Worlds in September and the Tokyo Olympics coming up next year, clearly there is a lot to be done.