Kerala confident ahead of Junior Federation Cup

"We are expecting around 12 golds," said Kerala coach P. P. Paul. "We have athletes such as Shaharbana Sidhique (400m silver in 2015), Abitha Mary Manuel (2015 Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medallist in 800m), K. T. Neena (10,000m walk) among others."

Shaharbana Sidhique, who won the 400m silver in 2015, prepares for 14th National Federation Cup Junior Athletics Championship.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Two-time overall and girls’ defending champion Kerala and boys’ champion Haryana will look to continue their dominance at the 14th Junior Federation Cup National Athletics Championship which gets underway here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.

“We are expecting around 12 golds,” said Kerala coach P. P. Paul. “We have athletes such as Shaharbana Sidhique (400m silver in 2015), Abitha Mary Manuel (2015 Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medallist in 800m), K. T. Neena (10,000m walk) among others.”

“Haryana will be tough competitors. Also Tamil Nadu to an extent. But we are confident of retaining the overall championship,” he added.

Among the boys, Haryana’s middle-distance runner Beant Singh will be a star attraction. The teenager is the defending 800m champion and won the gold at last year’s Asian Youth Championship too. In the recently-concluded senior Federation Cup he also met the qualifying mark for the Junior World Championship which is to be held in Poland in July.

“There is less pressure,” Beant said. “I have met the mark. So I can take it slightly easy. I can tweak my practice schedule a bit too.”

Kerala’s Joseph Joe, who came second in the 100m sprint last year behind Haryana’s Mohit, is another promising name and would want to go one step ahead this time around.

“There isn’t any pressure as such,” Joseph said. “But it might be the last chance to bag a place in the Indian team for the Junior Asian Athletics Championship (Vietnam, June). It has always been my dream. Whenever I have gotten close to qualifying, there hasn’t been a world event around. I hope to do it this time.”

In all, 510 athletes are expected to participate in the Championship. Host Karnataka will field a 26-member team with 15 men and 11 women.

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