CWG athletics: Spotlight on sprinters

Despite missing superstars, the athletics meet is not out of depth.

Yohan Blake would be among the favourites to claim the 200m title.   -  AFP

The XXI Commonwealth Games gain further weight and value when the track and field athletes are ready to get going at the Carrara stadium here from Sunday.

It is indeed meaningless to dwell on all those missing superstars who ought to have been there, but are missing from the action due to one reason or another. Their presence would certainly have added to the glamour, but still, the meet is not out of depth as there will be as many as 12 participants who won medals in the last year’s world championships in London and 17 who won the gold medals in Glasgow in 2014, who will be seen in action.

As usual, across both the sections, it is the big boys and girls among sprinters who are expected to hold attention. The prominent sprinters among men include the 2011 world champion Yohan Blake (Jamaica), Rio 2016 and 2017 world finalist Akani Simbine (South Africa), and England’s Adam Gemili.

Thompson vs Miller

Likewise, in the 200m, the main contenders to pursue Blake will be another South African and English — Clarence Munyai and Zharnel Hughes. Having turned in the eighth fastest time (43.72) in history in the 400m, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala will be the one to beat in the one-lapper.

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Among women, the prominent race could well be the one featuring Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson and the Olympic 400m champion Shaune Miller (Bahamas) in the 200m. The favourite in 100m on current calculations is Michelle Lee Ahye (Trinidad & Tobago) as she is likely to benefit out of the absence of Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, who, though present here, will be competing only in the 400m relay.

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It will also be a worthwhile experience in the presence of Caster Semenya, the world and Olympic 800m champion, who is expected to go for a double, adding 1500m to her individual programme. In the men’s section, Nijel Amos (Botswana) will be out to make history by being the first athlete to successfully defend the 800m title while a high-class field comprising Kenyan pair Eliha Manango and Timothy Cheruiyot are expected to attack the 1500m.

Obiri aiming for 5000m gold

Likewise, world champion Hellen Obiri (Kenya) has made it here solely with the aim of adding the Commonwealth 5000m title — a medal missing from her otherwise rich cabinet — while Conseslus Kipruto will aim to lead Kenya to an eighth successive gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase.

Among throwers, all eyes would be on this duo from New Zealand — Tom Walsh and Dame Valerie Adams — both shot putters. Walsh is now in joint-sixth place on the all-time list with a heave of 22.67m, while Adams will be on the lookout for a fourth straight Commonwealth title.

India is fielding a 21-member contingent but its hopes should revolve around Neeraj Chopra (javelin throw), Tejaswini Shankar (high jump), Arpinder Singh (triple jump) and Seema Punia (women’s discus throw). Arpinder had earned a bronze and Punia had won a silver four years ago when the highlight was the gold medal won by Vikas Gowda in men’s discus throw.