On Friday evening at NIS, Patiala, workers are seemingly in a race against the setting sun to get the temporary seating in order ahead of the four day Federation Cup athletics beginning on Saturday. In contrast to their frenzied activity, the athletes, who have arrived from all across the country, are seemingly more relaxed. A day ahead of the competition, training consists mostly of stretching followed by relatively light workouts. The throwers merely check their form. Sprinters only do split-time runs.
There is a reason for this relative ‘relaxation’. Over the past few weeks the athletes have progressively loaded their body as they build the momentum in training. Subsequently, the body needs to de-stressed so that it is fresh during competition. And, so, while the Federation Cup is part of the competition cycle, it too must be seen in the context of the ‘relaxation’ phase, as athletes, who have returned from Glasgow, look to peak for Incheon.
Because there have been few competitions this year. The Asian GP series had been cancelled by the Asian Athletics Association and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had not held the Indian GP series this year. Hence, the Federation Cup ostensibly serves as a sort of selection trial for the Asian Games next month.
However, it seems that for many events, the minimum qualification standards set by the AFI for the Asian Games are likely be missed in Patiala. Many athletes expected to go to the Asian Games have already cleared the minimum standards earlier this year.
A case in point are the 20km racewalkers. KT Irfan and Gurmeet Singh, who recorded a creditable time of 1:21:09 and 1:21:20 seconds, respectively, at the Racewalking World Cup in May, are not looking to push themselves hard and could be aiming for something in the 1:23:00 and 1:24:00 range this time around.
“This competition is not about going out to break records. With the Asian Games coming up, we don’t want to push the athletes. Our racewalkers have already gone below the qualifying standards for the Asian Games earlier this year. For them this competition is about getting tournament practice. And that is equally valuable,” said Gurdev Singh, who coaches Irfan.
Though the AFI has set qualifying guidelines, they are not cast in stone, and selectors are going to take the final call.
Tintu Luka, who was expected to be one of the stars of the Federation Cup, was not seen at the stadium and is believed to be giving the event a miss as she has an opportunity to compete at the IAAF Continental Cup early next month.
Meanwhile, the conditions in Patiala doesn’t seem that it will be conducive to quick timings.
“The track is a little old and is a bit soft. So, it will be hard to set a very quick time over here,” says Krishna Kant Rane, who won gold in the 100m at the Lucknow Interstate Athletics championships in May this year, with a time (10:32 seconds) that matches the minimum standard set for the Asian Games by continued…