Third Indian GP: Two final chances to make it to Rio

For the results to be valid for qualification purposes, a minimum of two different international teams, representing at least two countries, must compete in the race. To satisfy the criteria, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has invited the Sri Lankan and Maldivian outfits to participate.

The Indian men's and women's relay teams after a practice session at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

All eyes will be on the Indian relay teams as the Shriram Properties third Indian Grand Prix gets underway at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday. With July 11 being the deadline for Olympic qualification, the fourth edition of the Grand Prix will be also be held on Monday, giving the athletes two final chances in all to make the cut for the Rio Games.

The women’s 4x400m team currently lies 12th with a time of 3:29.05s and as of now fulfils the qualification criteria (the top-16 teams qualify). But it’s the 4x100m team which will be closely watched, placed as it is in 19th place (43.72s) with the timing for the 16th ranked team — Puerto Rico — being 43.47s.

Interest will also be in the men’s 4x400m team’s performance, which is in 17th spot with a best timing of 3:02.94s thus far. The team placed 16th — Venuzuela — has clocked 3:02.76s.

For the results to be valid for qualification purposes, a minimum of two different international teams, representing at least two countries, must compete in the race. To satisfy the criteria, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has invited the Sri Lankan and Maldivian outfits to participate.

“These two events are being held to facilitate more qualifications,” said AFI secretary C. K. Valson. “So far 24 have qualified, which is the highest-ever. The relay teams are very close. Hopefully they will qualify in this event.”

Elsewhere, even as Dutee Chand, who recently made the mark in the women’s 100m, and H. M. Jyothi are expected to compete in the 200m race, their main focus, understandably, will be on the relay events.

“This year, my training was disrupted a bit and that is why I concentrated just on the 100m,” said Dutee. “If I had had a little more time, I would have qualified for 200m as well. The 4x100 team has not yet qualified for Rio. That’s why I am here.”

For the likes of Amiya Kumar Mallick, who won the 100m gold in the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix, and Arokia Rajiv, who won the 400m gold at the same event, this event presents the final chance, if they choose to take it.

Other attractions will include Jinson Johnson in men’s 800m, V. Neena in the women’s long jump, Tajinderpal Singh Toor in the men’s shot put, Annu Rani in women’s javelin, Sahana Kumari in women’s high jump and Siddhanth Thingalaya in men’s 110m hurdles among others.

But Mayookha Johny, India’s best long and triple jumper in recent times, is yet to recover from an ankle injury and according to Indian national jump coach Bedros Bedrosian will be unable to qualify for Rio.