Terming the performance of Indian athletes at international meets a result of the joint effort involving different stakeholders, Adille Sumariwalla, president of Athletics Federation of India, said: “We will open our medal account in Tokyo (Olympic Games 2020). I do not wish to name the athletes, purely out of superstition. The relay teams stand the best chance.”
He was replying to a query on the prospect of sprinter Hima Das or javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra producing medal-winning displays at the next Olympics Games 2020 in Tokyo.
“Hima needs to be preserved for Olympic Games 2024 and her coach Galina (Petrova Bukharina), if given the time, will train her to run correctly in 2024,” said the AFI president.
The Assam sprinter clocked 50.79 seconds to win the women’s 400m silver medal at the Asian Games 2018.
India’s hopes also rest on the strong shoulders of Neeraj Chopra. “The javelin is a scary event, even a slight gust of wind during the throw can affect the distance. Wind in a certain direction pushes the javelin a few metres and can give it height, or vice versa. Let him keep improving,” said Sumariwalla, speaking on the sidelines of a discussion on Sports in India, arranged by the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai.
Manjit Singh (men’s 800) and Jinson Johnson (men’s 1500) won gold medals at the Asian Games. “In both these races, semifinal qualification is critical, generally timings in this race is faster than the final, so for these two middle distance runners, getting into the final is important. Anything can happen from there.”
The AFI president explained that both the Indians overcame challenge from African-origin runners competing for Arab nations. “Our best athletes have been told to leave the Asian Games memories behind and focus on cutting down timings at major meets ahead. In the middle-distance and long distance races, the Africans have to be tackled, whether running for own nation or others.”
Sumariwalla, incidentally, is also a member on the IAAF (world athletics body) Council and likened the treatment of African athletes by Arab nations to human trafficking. “These Africans are allegedly given fake passports, not granted full citizenship by the Arab nations and sent back once they have stopped competing. I am fighting against these practices in the IAAF. This is like human trafficking.”
Talking about boxing’s future at the Olympic Games after IOC's threat of sanctions on AIBA citing corruption issues, BFI(Boxing Federation of India) secretary Jay Kow said: “If IOC takes out boxing from the Olympics, all of us will be affected. I don’t know where it is heading, though I feel AIBA has become a target. The majority of positive happenings over the years by AIBA are forgotten and minor matters are being blown out of proportion.”
Indian junior shooting coach Deepali Deshpande, and one-time Olympian and Arjuna Awardee Kaka Pawar, now a wrestling coach running his own academy in Pune, also spoke at the event.