Inter-State Nationals: Athletes will be keen to confirm Asiad berth

Many who have been abroad may benefit from their dedicated training without any distractions.

Veteran athlete P.T. Usha and India's star athlete Hima Das having a conversation on the eve of the 58th National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships 2018 in Guwahati on Monday.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

The 58th National inter-State athletics championships, which will be the selection trials for the upcoming Asian Games, promises fine performances and new records despite the exemption given to ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and discus thrower Seema Punia.

Though the championships, starting at the Indira Gandhi International Stadium here on Tuesday amidst monsoon rains, is mandatory for those who aspire to be among the Asiad-bound 102 athletes (52 men and 50 women), it will not be a surprise if the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) accommodates some extra-ordinary performers after this event.

It is learnt that Seema, who won the 2014 Asiad gold and had been training on her own, will be asked to go through “confirmatory trials” to be held on August 15. “This is meant for someone who is not there in the National camp and surprises with his/her performance,” AFI secretary C.K. Valson said on Monday.

Athletes who have been abroad in Poland (400m runners), Bhutan (long-distance) and Finland (javelin) may ‘benefit’ from their dedicated training without any distractions.

The women’s 400m will be the most-anticipated event. Local lass Hima Das, who did a 51.32 at the Commonwealth Games in her first season, has baffled many experts with her performance in 400m and 200m (by clocking 23.22 in 200m in Poland) and will be eagerly watched.

Nirmala Sheoran, who hit the headlines for training in an undisclosed destination, should also do well. Even though the AFI is not keen to include her in the relay, it may not stop Nirmala, who has a personal best of 51.28, if she returns good time.

The presence of Jisna Mathew, M. R. Poovamma, Vijayakumari, Soniya Baishya, Nithyashree, V.K. Vismaya, Debashree Majumdar and Jauna Murmu make the field strong.

Muhammed Anas, who clocked a National record of 45.31s in CWG this season, Arokia Rajiv, Kunhumohammed and Ayyasamy Dharun would look to raise the bar in men’s 400m.

High hopes of a mixed relay gold medal in Asiad add gloss to 400m events.

Dutee Chand’s return in sprint, Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar’s comeback in steeplechase, Annu Rani in javelin, Nayana James in long jump and Swapna Barman’s return to heptathlon will be the other highlights.

Tintu Luka, who is nursing an injury, may get another opportunity. Her mentor P.T. Usha is learnt to have requested the AFI to consider the case of the 800m silver medallist in 2014 Incheon Games.

Among men, Jinson Johnson, who will attempt to better National records in 800m and 1500m, G. Lakshmanan in 5,000m and 10,000m, M. Sreeshankar, who did a 7.99m before falling ill prior to the Commonwealth Games, in long jump, Arpinder Singh, who will eye the qualifying mark of 16.62m, in triple jump (in the absence of Renjith Maheshwary) and Tejinderpal Singh Toor, who will try to get to the magic figure of 19.50, in shot put will be the primary attractions.

National record holder high jumper Tejaswin Shankar and javelin thrower Vipin Kasana’s absence affects the meet’s glamour.