National Open: Top athletes skip event, Services favourite

World junior javelin throw champion Neeraj Chopra, National record holders Dutee Chand (100m), Tintu Luka (800m) and Muhammed Anas (400m) are the athletes who have opted to skip the meet.

National record holder Dutee Chand (100m) also decided to skip the National Open athletics championship to be held at the Nehru Stadium in Chennai from September 25.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

At the fag end of a draining athletics calendar starting from the Asian Grand Prix, followed by the Federation Cup (Patiala), Asian Championship (Bhubaneswar), National Inter-State (Guntur), some of the top athletes have chosen to miss the four-day National Open championship (either to take rest or due to injuries) to be held at the Nehru Stadium here from Monday.

And those who are participating in the meet are mainly doing it for the pride of performance and of course, to fulfill the obligation of representing their employers: Services, All India Police Sports Board, Railways, LIC and ONGC.

World junior javelin throw champion Neeraj Chopra, National record holders Dutee Chand (100m), Tintu Luka (800m) and Muhammed Anas (400m) are the athletes who have opted to skip the meet.

Of the few top ones who are taking part, G. Lakshmanan is the most notable. The reigning Asian champion in 5000m & 10000m, felt the humid conditions may not be the ideal place for him to do his personal best, but assured that he will put his best. “It’s been only a few days I returned from Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games (Ashgabat). Though I can’t guarantee my personal best in both due to the prevailing humid weather, I will, as always, give my best,” he told Sportstar here on Sunday.

V.S. Surekha, who set the National record in women’s pole vault (4.15m) in New Delhi in 2014 at the Open Nationals, is taking part, but has been away from the sport for the last two years after giving birth to a girl child. She said it will be premature to promise a medal as it has been only two months back she began practising. “A lot of talented youngsters have come up in the last year or so. I am keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

Mohan Kumar, the Rio Olympian, however, expressed confidence of doing well in his hometown in 400m race.

Though he had a moderate 2017, a third position in the Inter-State meet at Guntur being his best, the 20-year-old hopes the “home ground” will be a huge positive factor favouring him.

Davinder Singh, the lone Indian who qualified for the javelin throw final in the recent World championship, said a recurring shoulder problem will not stop him from performing to his potential.

Old warhorse Om Prakash Karhana is back in the mix.

After turning away from shot put, the National record stands in his name in 2014, the 30-year-old is back with a renewed passion for the sport. “I gave up as there was no motivation left. But my coach Bhupinder Singh asked me to re-focus. I have started training in full measure since 2016,” said Om Prakash.

With most of the top athletes in its stable, Services is expected to top the medals tally.

Authorities assure smooth run

As the football ground at the Nehru Stadium is being spruced up for the  Indian Super League to be held in November, all the field events of the Open Nationals have been shifted to the Nehru ‘B’ ground. And murmurs of discontent at the facility not being in proper condition has started to surface. “I heard that there is a lot of dust coming from the throwing area. We have to take part as at this stage, nothing can be done,” said shot putter Om Prakash.
Disputing it, C. Latha, Organising Secretary, said: “We have put a new circle for discus and javelin throw, and the shot put facility is good too. There is no need to worry,” she said.

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