Bhubaneswar Asians promise a record high

India’s best finish at the Asians was in 1985 in Jakarta with 23 medals and that included 10 golds, which is also the country’s highest so far.

Javelin thrower Annu Rani will be expected to bag a medal in the Asian Athletics Championships.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Despite the wet and gloomy weather here, Annu Rani appeared quietly confident as she stretched after a hour-long session at the Kalinga Stadium’s training area.

With Neeraj Chopra sparkling, javelin throw is frequently in the news these days but no Indian woman has ever hit gold in the event at the Asian Athletics Championships and the 24-year-old from Uttar Pradesh hopes to change that.

“I expect to throw above 64m here, I have been in that range during training,” said the national record-holder, in a chat with The Hindu, here on Tuesday. “Mentally and physically, I have become better. My technique is also a lot better.”

Though Liu Shiying, the Asian record holder with 66.47m, is not entered for the 22nd Asians which begin here on Thursday, there is another Chinese Li Lingwei who is the next best Asian this season with 64.10m.

“That Chinese thrower is strong but the Indian is stronger,” said Annu, the 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist, shrugging off the challenge with a smile though at 61.86m her personal best is way below Li’s.

“Annu had thrown 64.80m recently, so I think she is good for gold here,” said her coach, former international Kashinath Naik.

Radhakrishnan Nair, the Deputy National Coach, also believes that Annu is in gold form. In fact, he feels that these Asians could be much better than the championships’ last edition in Wuhan two years ago.

17 MEDALS EXPECTED

“We are expecting 17 medals this time and we will be getting more golds than Wuhan where we got four golds,” said Radhakrishnan.

“When I say more, it could be five, six, seven or eight golds. Golds from men’s and women’s shot put (Tajinderpal Singh Toor and Manpreet Kaur), men and women’s long jump through Ankit Sharma and Nayana James and women’s 800 (Tintu Luka)…these are the expectations.

“And even in the women’s 400m, we can get a gold from Nirmala (Sheoran). Also, the women’s steeple chase since Bahrain’s Olympic champion Ruth Jebet is not here. And then, we have two 4x400m relays. Of course, we can’t put a number to the golds we could win but we are trying to come at least second in the table.”

India’s best finish at the Asians was in 1985 in Jakarta with 23 medals and that included 10 golds, which is also the country’s highest so far.

Well, with many of Asia’s best absent, Bhubaneswar could turn out to be India’s best Asians. And with these championships, where golds come with World Championships  berths in individual events, the host athletes appear an inspired lot. But with the sudden and shocking rise of some of our stars in recent time, there will always be that little itch…whether it is through fair or foul means.