Asian Athletics C’ships: Battles to watch

The men’s javelin battle between the host’s under-20 World champion Neeraj Chopra and Taipei’s Chao-Tsun Cheng, who has consistently beaten him this season, will be a must-watch event.

Indian athletes during the opening parade at the inaugural ceremony of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

The burly figure appeared to be searching for someone at the Kalinga Stadium’s training ground here. Malaysian discus thrower Muhammed Irfan was probably looking out for familiar faces, like India’s Vikas Gowda and Iranian Ehsan Hadadi.

“It’s going to be a tight contest but I will beat them both,” the 21-year-old Irfan told Sportstar here on Wednesday. “And I think the gold will go for something like 63m.”

READ:  AAA plans to overhaul Asian GP

Sport is all about great rivalries and as the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships begin here on Thursday, the men’s discus throw will be closely watched.

And though Hadadi, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist and a three-time Asian Games champion, and Gowda, who is gunning for a hat-trick of golds at the Asians, are not at their best, the competition will be intense since all the three are desperate to win the gold and book a ticket to next month’s London Worlds.

FAST ‘FOREIGNERS’

On the track, the battle for the title of Asia’s fastest man will certainly be hot. Jamaicans Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher, who will be making their Asians debut after switching allegiance to Bahrain two years ago, could make life difficult for Qatar’s Nigeria-born Femi Ogunode who has been having a free run the last few years.

Ogunode may have broken the Asian record while winning the last Asian Games and the Asians, bringing it down to an impressive 9.91s but Brown (personal best 9.93s, season 10.03) beat the Qatari comfortably in the Rio Olympics heats before moving to the semifinal. Fisher (PB 9.94, SB 10.16) too made the Riosemifinal while Ogunode (SB 10.13) crashed out in the first round.

With all the three yet to book Worlds tickets (entry standard 10.12s), there will be a bunch of hungry men here.

Known as the ‘Lord of the Dance’ for his Gangnam-style celebration, Chinese high jumper Zhang Guowei could be a top draw here.   -  REUTERS

 

‘Lord of Dance’ v Ghazal

Known as the ‘Lord of the Dance’ for his Gangnam-style celebration, Chinese high jumper Zhang Guowei could be a top draw here. A silver medallist at the last Worlds, Guowei’s big goal is to break the long-standing Chinese record (2.40m) of Zhu Jinhua, the former world record holder and he is just two centimetres away from it.

Pushing him will be Syria’s Asian leader Majed Aldin Ghazal who was seventh in the Rio Olympics and who has a season-best of 2.32m which came with a bronze in the recent Diamond League’s Paris round.

Lingwei v Annu Rani

China’s Li Lingwei, the 2013 Asian champion in Pune, may be the favourite for the women’s javelin gold but her coach Qingrian Guo feels that it would not be a big throw.

“I think 61m will bring the gold,” said Guo who also coaches Asian record-holder Liu Shiying. That should be music for Indian national record-holder Annu Rani who hopes to uncork a 64m throw here.

The men’s javelin battle between the host’s under-20 World champion Neeraj Chopra and Taipei’s Chao-Tsun Cheng, who has consistently beaten him this season, will also be a must-watch event.