It could be close but javelin thrower Ajai Raj Singh Rana appears to be the brightest prospect for an athletics medal at the Youth Olympic Games which begin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.
Athletics at the Youth Olympics starts in the Games’ second week, on October 11, and Punjab’s Ajai, who won the gold at the Games’ Asian Area qualification meet with a personal best 76.13m, is among the top four throwers in the event.
“Yes, Ajai has a chance of winning a medal and probably triple jumper C. Praveen too,” the team’s chief coach Subash George told Sportstar from Buenos Aires.
Poland’s Marek Mucha, the under-18 European champion and world leader with 80.01m, will start as the favourite in the event while Greek Gerasimos Kalogerakis (77.45m), Finland’s Topias Laine (76.44) and German David Schepp (75.69) are among the others who could be giving Ajai a tough fight.
Meanwhile, triple jumper Praveen had been struggling with his form and fitness ever since he made a massive 16.22m to win the gold at the Tamil Nadu State senior championships in Tirunelveli in June but appears to have recovered now.
“He had an ankle injury soon after that big jump but is now close to 16m. He had come to Nagercoil during the floods in Kerala and had done some good jumps in training,” said Indira Suresh, who had coached the 17-year-old in Nagercoil earlier.
Bedros Bedrosian, the national jumps coach who trains Praveen in Thiruvananthapuram now, feels the youngster has a chance of a medal if he repeats his personal best at Buenos Aires. “Anything between 16.20 and 16.30m could bring a medal,” said the Romanian.
Cuban Alejandro Jordan Diaz, who won the under-20 Worlds gold in Finland in July and clinched the under-18 Worlds title in Kenya last year, is the favourite to take the Youth Olympics honours. He is the current under-20 and under-18 world leader with a massive 17.41m which came at home in June, while Praveen’s 16.22m, though not listed in the IAAF’s current under-18 world chart, should put him in the joint second spot with Nigerian Imeh Emmanuel.
India has sent a seven-member athletics team for the Youth Olympics. Tamil Nadu's Asian under-18 area champion Sreekiran Nandakumar (800m), Suraj Panwar Soren (5000m race walk), Himachal’s Seema (girls 3000m) and Kerala’s Vishnu Priya Jayaprakasan (girls 400m hurdles) are the others in the team.