Focus on Neeraj Chopra as India starts athletics season

Nearly 200 athletes, including 12 Indians, will figure in the first of the three-leg series which offers a total prize fund of $150,000.

Neeraj has a personal best of 86.48m, which is also a world junior record.   -  Getty Images

The Indian track and field season opens in China on Monday with the first leg of the Asian Grand Prix in Jinhua.

Nearly 200 athletes, including 12 Indians, will figure in the first of the three-leg series which offers a total prize fund of $150,000.

The Indian team reached Jinhua early on Sunday morning after a four-hour bus journey from Shanghai.

“The weather, the field of play and hospitality are excellent,” said Radhakrishnan Nair, the Deputy National Coach, from China.

The focus will be on the 19-year-old javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who won the under-20 World Championship gold with a World junior record in Poland last year. Neeraj has a personal best of 86.48m, which came with the under-20 gold, and something of that sort around this time would place in the second rung in the world list this season. Germany’s Julian Weber currently occupies the second spot in the world chart with 85.85m.

Asian champion Tintu Luka, Asian silver medallist Jinson Johnson – both 800m runners – and Dutee Chand are among the prominent athletes in the Indian team.

Though Navjeet Kaur, the 2014 World junior championship, does not find a place in the Indian team, her name figured in the Asian GP’s entry list which was put up a couple of days ago.

“Navjeet suffered a back strain recently,” Radhakrishnan explained, solving the mystery.

The events begin at 6.30 p.m. China time.

Ankit’s 7.82m long jump in Oman

Meanwhile, national men’s long jump record-holder Ankit Sharma, who produced a stunning 8.19m at Almaty in Kazakhstan last year on the road to the Rio Olympics, opened his season with a 7.82m effort while winning the gold at the Association Cup in Muscat, Oman, on Friday.