Federation Cup: Race hots up for Rio qualification spots

The 20th Federation Cup athletics is likely to kick start to an interesting three days of competition at the Nehru Stadium.

Krishna Poonia is expected to meet the qualification mark in discus throwing at the Federation Cup.   -  PTI

Indian athletics has the impressive numbers in its pursuit of gaining tickets to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, but most of the 22 who have achieved the qualification standard so far, have done so in walk and marathon.

Of course, Lalita Babbar has qualified in both marathon and women’s 3000 metres steeple chase. It has also apparently inspired other Olympic qualified athletes like OP Jaisha and Sudha Singh to focus on the relatively smaller distance events.

With the 5000-metre events scheduled to start at 6 a.m. on Thursday, the 20th Federation Cup athletics is likely to kick start to an interesting three days of competition at the Nehru Stadium.

Even though most of the leading athletes would be keen to reach the Olympic qualification marks, someone like Krishna Poonia, Commonwealth Games champion at home in Delhi in 2010 who finished sixth in the London Olympics with a throw of 62.42 metres and holds a national record of 64.76, is in no hurry. Understandably so, as the 38-year-old Krishna, busy in politics for some time, had been out of action as an athlete for about two years, owing to an injury and subsequent surgery.

She returned to the circuit in the Indian Grand Prix last Sunday, and threw the discus to 55.22 metres, well short of the qualification standard of 61 metres. “I expect Krishna to do better in the Federation Cup. We hope to get the qualification mark by mid June”, said Virender Poonia, the Dronacharya awardee coach and husband of Krishna.

Some other athletes have assembled from around the world to assure the officials and the public that their preparations are on track.

Men to watch out for

Inderjeet Singh, Asian champion and World University Games gold medallist, has been training in the US for about five months with his favourite coaches, after having qualified for the Olympics in May last year. The leading jumpers, including Mayookha Johny aiming for a berth in triple jump, coached by Bedros Bedrosian, are back after a 25-day stint in South Africa.

Tintu Luka, the Asian champion and Asian Games silver medallist, who has already attained the qualification mark in women’s 800 metres, will also be watched with interest.

Vikas Gowda and Manpreet Kaur who have also reached the Olympic qualification mark in men’s discus and women’s shot put respectively, may not figure in the competition.

The focus will also be on Muhammed Anas, Arokia Rajiv, MR Poovamma and Anilda Thomas in the 400 metres, as they have been hovering close to the qualification standard. The men need to clock a time of 45.40 and the women 52.20 to make the cut to Rio.

The Indian women’s 4 x 400 metre relay team has been in and out of the world’s top-16, the qualification criteria for the Rio Games. Thus, there will be separate races for the national squad, as well as the men, at the end of the three-day Federation Cup, to achieve impressive timing.

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