Indians raise hopes of a strong show at Asian junior athletics

The 18th Asian junior athletics championships begin in Gifu on Thursday.

The long jumpers and triple jumpers, including M. Sreeshankar, S. Lokesh along with coach Sanjay Kumar Rai, at the Gifu stadium on Wednesday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A steady drizzle welcomed the Indians as they trained at the Nagaragawa Stadium on Wednesday ahead of 18th Asian junior athletics championships at Gifu, Japan.

“There is a steady drizzle here and the food is a bit of a problem, otherwise everything is fine here,” said long jumper M. Sreeshankar, who is making a comeback after an appendicitis surgery. “The long jump will be a straight final as there are only 15 jumpers.”

Close fight expected

The long jump is likely to be a fight between Sreeshankar and his national camp-mate S. Lokesh, who are being trained by Romanian Bedros Bedrosian at the national camp in Thiruvananthapuram.

The two have already qualified for next month’s under-20 World Championships in Finland. The long jump will be a straight final.

“This is a new track and there is a different feel to it. It’s also cold here,” said Bengaluru’s Lokesh who won the South Asian junior championships gold with a personal best 7.74m in Colombo last month. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu’s K. Kamalraj appears to be a favourite to win the men’s triple jump.

Jisna to do 200m too

On the track, defending women’s 400m champion Jisna Mathew, a senior Asian bronze medallist, will also be running the 200m this time.

“Jisna will be making her international debut in the 200m,” said her coach P.T. Usha.

India finished third in the medal table with seven golds, four silvers and six bronzes at the last edition in Vietnam in 2016 and with the throwers, especially Ashish Bhalothia (shot put) and Damneet Singh (hammer), expected to do well, would be looking for a strong finish this time too.

Looking at Worlds grade

There will be a few, like Chennai triple jumper Priyadharshini Suresh, who will be looking to make the under-20 Worlds qualification standard. Priyadharshini went past the entry standard (12.85m) while taking the junior South Asian gold recently but her 12.90m jump in Colombo was wind-assisted and hence did not count towards qualification.