February 9, 2015 2:54:24 am
When one enters the refurbished Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium, the practice venue for athletes, it is hard to miss the bevy of photographers — at any given point at least a dozen — crowding around and following PT Usha and her protégé Tintu Luka. The former sprint queen is not perturbed by the attention.
Rather she knows that being under intense focus will drive home the point, not only to Luka but also to the rest of the athletes from the home state, that this is as big as it gets at the national level. For the hosts, who have a tradition of producing champion athletes, the next five days will be all about track and field, which offers 132 medals, the second only to aquatics.
A surge of medals in the last week of the games will also put them in the top-three on the medals table. However, an upswing in fortunes will require more than just Luka to finish first in her pet event. “This is essentially the off season so if the Games were not being held in Kerala I am not sure if Tintu would have participated,” Usha says. It won’t be a stroll to the podium for any of the state’s athletes.
In the first final of the day the vastly improved Lalita Babar of Maharashtra will strive to ensure that it is not a cakewalk for the troika from Kerala – Kavita Raut, Preeja Sreedharan and OP Jaisha.
In the men’s high jump national record holder Premkumar Kumaravel will be eager to prove that his dip in form was essentially due to a bout of chicken pox followed by jaundice.
Arpinder Singh, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games bronze-medalist will go head to head with Renjith Maheshwary.
MR Poovamma, the reigning national champion in the women’s 400 m and a bronze medallist at the Incheon Asian Games, is a doubtful starter and so is former champion hurdler in the women’s 400, Ashwini Akkunji, while men’s discus throw champion Vikas Gowda is not participating in the event. Women discus throwers Seema Antil and Krishna Poonia are yet to confirm their participation.
However, Dutee Chand, the sprinter who was detected with hyper-androgenism, will be on track in the 100, 200 and the relay. “This is my first meet at the national level in over eight months. I have not trained as much as I should have because of the various distractions but I am making progress. Hopefully, I will be able to win medals for my state Orissa,” Dutee says. If the 19-year-old is able to finish on the podium, then the focus of attention will shift, at least briefly from Tintu and her fellow athletes.
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