Athletes brace up for Inter-State C’ships with an eye on London

A new, blue Acharya Nagarjuna University track in Guntur will greet athletes participating in the National Inter-State Championships which begins on Saturday.

Anilda Thomas will participate in the Inter-State Championships with an eye on the squad.   -  S. Gopakumar

She skipped the quartermile in the recent Federation Cup, bitter that she had been ignored for the Indian mile relay team for the Rio Olympics. Anu Raghavan stressed that fact once again after winning the 400m hurdles silver at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar the other day.

But now, the 24-year-old from Kerala has had a change of mind. With berths in the Indian relay team for next month’s World Athletics Championships in London looking promising, Anu has decided to try the 400m flat once again at the 57th National Inter-State Championships which begin at the new, blue Acharya Nagarjuna University track here on Saturday.

Anilda Thomas, who was a part of the Indian relay team at the Rio Olympics, is also hopping back to the national circuit in Guntur, with an eye on the squad. “I hope to do something like 52.70s,” Anilda, one of the fastest quartermilers in the country last year, who took a break for her marriage and thus missed the recent Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar which turned out to be highly rewarding experience for her team-mates.

Tintu Luka, a prominent member of the relay team the last few years, is yet to recover from the dengue fever which hit her at the Asians. The 2015 Asian 800m champion, who was forced to drop out of the two-lapper after 500m, was admitted in a hospital soon after the final and with her return ticket to Kozhikode delayed, she was forced to stay in Bhubaneswar for nearly three days after the Asians. Tintu will be missing the Guntur meet and with her recovery expected to take time, she could miss the Worlds too.

Battle for reserve spot

With Nirmala Sheoran, M. R. Poovamma, Jisna Mathew and Debashree Majumdar virtually confirming their London seats with a gold-winning run at the Asians, Anilda and Anu could be fighting for the reserve spots in the relay team. With the qualification entry gates for Worlds closing on July 23, the Indian women’s relay team is in the 15th spot in the ‘Race to London’, below the eight automatic qualifiers from the IAAF World Relays held in Bahamas earlier this year.

Meanwhile Odisha’s Rio Olympian Dutee Chand, who was given the star status at Bhubaneswar since she was running in her home State, will be trying to clock the 11.26s that will take her to London. The national record holder, who clocked a stunning 11.24s in a meet in Almaty last year which the Athletics Federation of India is yet to ratify, has a season best of 11.30s.

Meanwhile, men’s long jump national record holder Ankit Sharma has pulled out of the Guntur meet after suffering an injury in Bhubaneswar. “I injured my jumping leg during the third jump at the Asians,” said Ankit whose national record stands at 8.19 m.

Triple jumper Arpinder Singh and shot putter Tajinderpal Toor are others who will be trying to make the qualification grade while Kerala long jumpers V. Neena and Nayana James – who won the silver and bronze at the Asians – could light up their field with their battle.

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