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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

National Open athletics meet: Top stars skip but chance for hopefuls to make an impact

The first Indian athlete to win the elusive medal in Olympics, Neeraj Chopra who went on to win gold medal in the recent Tokyo Games, will be absent for obvious reasons while Kamalpreet Kaur who reached final of women’s discus throw event will be missed.

By: Sports Desk |
Updated: September 14, 2021 10:05:11 pm
Shaili Singh has the potential to win an Olympic medal, Anju believes. (File Photo/ Andrew Amsan)

The swanky Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Hanamkonda, Warangal in Telangana which will host the National Open Athletics Championships in the next five days starting Wednesday will be bereft of top stars but Athletics Federation of India hopes fresh faces will be launched instead.

The first athlete to win that elusive medal in Olympics, Neeraj Chopra who went on to win gold medal in the recent Tokyo Games, will be absent for obvious reasons and so will be the a host of others who made it to the finals Kamalpreet Kaur in women’s discus throw or Avinash Sable in men’s 3000m steeplechase who competed in Tokyo National Stadium will be conspicuous by their absence. Not to forget the athletes who competed in the 2020 Nairobi World Under-20 Athletics Championship too chose to miss the event like Shaili Singh who won silver medal in long jump and mixed relay team which won bronze medal.

However, the season-ender and the 11th national-level event in Olympic year has still attracted athletes from institutional teams like Railways, Services, All India Police among 20-odd states too. Railways have come here with record 87 athletes, including 43 women, while Services team – only men – is the second largest with 57 members and All India Police will field 50, including 24 women athletes.

The entries of at least 122 athletes have been rejected for not achieving the qualifying standards set by the AFI or for reaching the venue without a certificate of performance.

The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medallists Arpinder Singh in men’s triple jump and Swapna Burman in the heptathlon are the biggest draw. VK Elakkiadasan of Railways and Shanmuga Srinivas Nalubothu of Andhra Pradesh who clocked fastest 200m sprinter this season will be extending their rivalry.

The battle for supremacy, in the men’s long jump event, between Muhammed Anees Yahiya and Yugant Shekhar Singh will be keenly watched.

In women’s long jump in the absence of World U20 silver medalist Shaili Singh, Priyanka Kerketta of Railways, Mareena George of Kerala, Sherin Abdul Gafoor of Tamil Nadu and hosts Nandini Agasara will try to make it an intense clash.

Haryana’s Summy Kaliravan, bronze medallist of the 4x400m mixed relay squad in the Nairobi World meet, Tokyo Olympian Revathi Veeramani, Archa Suseendran will appear in women’s 400m. Bhawna Jat, who competed in Tokyo Games in women’s 20km race walk, discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, sprinters Himashree Roy and C Kanimozhi are some familiar names.

Priyanka Bhowmick, 14, of Tripura will be the baby of the meet while Pavana Nagaraj, 15, of Karnataka who has a personal best of 1.73m, will be competing in women’s 100m and high jump events, respectively.

The National Open is the second national-level competition in Warangal in two years after the National Cross-Country Championships in January last year. The organisers – Telangana Athletics Association and the district administration of Warangal – have left no stone unturned to ensure that the competition is held according to the Athletics Federation of India’s standard of operating procedure and following Covid-19 protocols.

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