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Will Indian athletes’ search for elusive Olympic medals end in Tokyo?

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has a realistic chance to climb the podium.

Tokyo 2020: India's Athletics contingent will begin its campaign on Friday.

Do miracles happen? Definitely, insisted the national coach before boarding the flight to Tokyo while accompanying his trainees for the Olympic Games.

And when athletics events begin at National Stadium from Friday, the hopes on Indian athletes are sky-high.

The fact is only javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has a realistic chance to climb the podium.

Out of the 26-member team, Neeraj was the lone Indian to train and compete in Europe before reaching Tokyo on Tuesday.

The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic kept other Indian athletes indoors as foreign countries banned flights from India.

In a Finland meet last month, Neeraj threw the spear to 86.79 metres for a third-place finish behind former world champion Johannes Vetter (93.59m). The German has a personal best (PB) of 97.76m and a season-best (SB) of 96.29m.

Vetter’s compatriot and reigning Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada and silver medallist Magnus Kirt of Estonia skipped Tokyo due to injuries.

Apart from the German, the Indian hopeful will face competition from Marcin Krukowski (SB 89.55m) of Poland, 2012 London Games champion and 2016 Rio bronze medallist Keshorn Walcott (PB 90.16m, SB 89.12m) and Latvia’s 2014 under-20 World champion Gatis Cakss (PB & SB 87.57m).

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The qualifying round in the javelin event will be held on August 4 and the final on August 7.

The national athletics coach who recently placed his bets on the 4x400m mixed relay team has now put his cards on the 4x400m relay team for obvious reasons.

Top women’s 400m runners VK Vismaya, Hima Das, MR Poovamma and Jisna Mathew were all out of the team due to injury or poor form instead Revathi V, Subha V and Dhanlakshmi S have taken their place.

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Like Neeraj, Kamalpreet Kaur in women’s discus throw with a personal best of 66.59m and a world ranking of No.6 has been counted by pundits as a medal prospect in Tokyo apart from Annu Rani in women’s javelin throw (PB 62.83m).

The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medal winner Tajinder Singh Toor in men’s shot out has reached Tokyo with a throw of 21.4m during Indian Grand Prix held at Patiala two months ago.

Shivpal Singh (PB of 86.23m in men’s javelin throw), Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m steeplechase) and M Sreeshankar (PB of 8.26m in men’s long jump) can reach their respective finals.

National record holder Avinash (PB of 8 minutes 20.20 seconds) is in roaring form and will race in the heats of 3000m steeplechase on Friday. The final is scheduled to be held on Monday.

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Dutee Chand (in women’s 100m) and M P Jabir (in men’s 400m hurdles) will compete in their heats in the morning session on Friday. The mixed 4x400m relay team will be competing in the evening session.

First published on: 29-07-2021 at 09:01:58 pm
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