AFI raises the bar for men in national championships

However, C.K. Valson, the AFI Secretary, explained that the national body had not gone out of its way to make life easier for women.

The qualification standards for steeplechase is among the five events that the federation has increased.   -  M. PERIASAMY

A close study of the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) entry standards for this year's national championships throws up an interesting picture. The federation has raised the bar in five men's events but appears to have gone soft on women, pushing up the standard in just one discipline – the discus throw.

But C.K. Valson, the AFI Secretary, explained that the national body had not gone out of its way to make life easier for women.

“No...the women's standards are already high. So, we did not touch their standard at all,” Valson told Sportstar on Monday evening.

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“In the men's section, our standards were low earlier, so we wanted to raise them to get the best. We want people to challenge the standard.”

Incidentally, the qualification standards in the men's 3000m steeple chase has been made tougher by 20 seconds – from 9:50s to 9:30s – while it has been raised by three metres to 68m in the men's javelin throw.

Was it the Avinash Sable and Neeraj Chopra effect? Sable was on a national record-breaking spree last year and had entered the Doha World championships final and made the cut for this year's Tokyo Olympics while the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games javelin throw champion Chopra inspired many in the country to go past 80m.

“Yes, you can say it's a sort of a Sable effect in steeple chase. Though his standard is very high when compared to the others, the fact that we have raised it means more people are doing better than before,” said Valson.

He explained that the entry standards were fixed based on the Olympic standards.

“Suppose we have the Olympic standard as 9.9s (in the men's 100m), if we don't raise the entry standard to 11s for our nationals, it won't be okay. That is the concept we normally follow,” he said.

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The men's 200m, 400m and 800m are the other men's events where the qualification standards have been raised but the federation has surprisingly lowered the entry levels in the men's shot put (from 15.50m to 15m) and discus throw (from 45.50m to 45).

“The reason is, we should have at least 18 to 20 athletes doing that event. If you notice, many would not have reached 15.50m in national competitions last year. We fix up a standard so that we can have at least 15 athletes, otherwise I will be running a competition with only 10 people,” explained Valson, who is also the Competitions Director for Asian athletics.

“If you keep the standard very high and if very few qualify, it will look very awkward.”

The discus throw, where the new qualification mark is 38m (last year 35m), is the only women's event where the standard has been raised. The national track and field season opens with the first Indian Grand Prix in Patiala on March 20.

AFI's entry standards for 2020

Men: 100m (11.00s), 200m (22.00s), 400m (49.00s), 800m (1:54.00s), 1500m (3:58.00s), 5000m (15:10.00s), 10,000m (32:50.00s), 110m hurdles (15.20s), 400m hurdles (55.00s), 3000m steeple chase (9:30.00s), high jump (1.90m), pole vault (4.20m), long jump (7m), triple jump (14.50m), shot put (15m), discus throw (45m), hammer throw (54m), javelin throw (68m), 4x100m relay (42.50s), 4x400m relay (3:12.00s), decathlon (5000 pts), 20km (road)/20,000m (track) race walking (1:40.00s), 50km race walking (no restriction).

Women: 100m (12.50s), 200m (25.00s), 400m (57.00s), 800m (2:20.00s), 1500m (4:35.00s), 5000m (17:50.00s), 10,000m (37:50.00s), 100m hurdles (15.30s), 400m hurdles (1:04.50s), 3000m steeple chase (12:50.00s), high jump (1.55m), pole vault (3.10m), long jump (5.70m), triple jump (11.75m), discus throw (38m), hammer throw (40m), javelin throw (42.50m), 4x100m relay (48.00s), 4x400m relay (3:52.00s), heptathlon (3500 pts), 20km/20,000m race walking (2:00.00s).