Twenty-two athletes have qualified for the Rio Olympics but there are others who have a chance of making the cut over the next next three months. With the 20th Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships being held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here is a look at those who have the potential to be on the flight to the Olympic Games.
Neeraj Chopra (Javelin)
Eighteen-year-old Neeraj Chopra’s personal best of 82.23 metres registered on way to winning gold at the South Asian Games is 77 centimeters short of Olympic qualifying standard. Throws coach Garry Calvert says Chopra is the ‘best natural talent’ he has seen in a teenager. Chopra has the best three throws in the world this year in the under-20 category and he has improved his personal best from 73.45 metres to 82.23 in 15 months. On Sunday, at the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix, though only 30 per cent fit, Chopra threw a distance of 79.54 metres. A back muscle strain, suffered during a bus journey, means Chopra won’t be at his best in the Federation Cup. The Olympic qualifying mark has been set at 83 metres.
OP Jaisha (1,500)/ Sudha Singh (3000 steeplechase)
As things stand, four Indian women have qualified for the marathon for the Rio Games. But not all of them are keen on running the marathon. The debate over whether they should focus on shorter track events has led to disharmony between at least two of the girls and long distance coach Nikolai Snesarev. At the Federation Cup, OP Jaisha will be participating in the 1,500 metres, while Sudha Singh will be running in the 3000 metre steeple chase. Both these athletes have qualified for the marathon along with Lalitha Babbar (both marathon and 3000 SC) and Kavita Raut. Sudha’s personal best in the 3000 SC is 9:35.64 achieved at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 while the qualifying standard for the Rio Games is 9:45.00, which is well within her range. Jaisha (4:09.14 PB) will have to run faster than she ever has in the 1,500 to meet the qualifying standard of 4:07.00.
Ankit Sharma/ Kumarvel Premkumar (long jump)
Kumarvel Premkumar considers the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as his lucky venue because it was here nearly three years ago that he broke the nine-year-old national record in the men’s long jump by leaping to a distance of 8.09 metres. He has the most jumps of over 8 metres (5) by an Indian but will have to break the national record by a distance if he has to meet the qualifying standard of 8.15 metres. Pushing Premkumar will be Ankit Sharma, another jumper who has crossed the 8 metre mark. Both jumpers have returned from a short training stint in South Africa under Romanian-born coach but are short on competition. Both jumpers will have to jump out of their skin to make the Rio Olympics cut.
Mayookha Jhonny (triple jump/long jump)
The 28-year-old has been in some form recently, winning a gold and silver in the Asian Indoors in Doha in February. At the Aspire Dome she leaped to 14 metres in the triple jump to win silver and 6.35 metres in the long jump to win gold. However, at the Federation Cup it will be the outdoor performances that matter and Jhonny will have to better her personal bests in both events in order to qualify. The qualifying standard for the Rio Olympics in the women’s long jump is 6.70 metres while it stands at 14.15 in the triple jump. Mayookha, like the other elite jumpers, is participating at the Federation Cup after a training stint in South Africa,
MR Poovamma (400m)
The 25-year-old has been dominating the event at the national level for the last few years but will face stiff competition from Anilda Thomas and Anu Raghavan in her pet event. If the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix is anything to go by, this will be one of the most closely contested races at the Federation Cup. Anilda Thomas won gold (52.93s) and edged out Poovamma (53.05s) at the Indian Grand Prix. Anu Raghavan finished third (54.24s). Poovamma’s personal best is 51.73 metres well within the qualifying standard of 52.20. However, the standings in the women’s 400 could have a bearing on the composition of the 4×400 women’s relay team. Rest assured, Asian Games bronze medalist Poovamma will have competition snapping at her heels.
Arokia Rajiv (400m)
Like Poovamma in the women’s event, Arokia Rajiv was another athlete who suffered a shock defeat in his favourite event at the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix. The Asian Games bronze medalist was beaten by 21-year-old Muhammed Anas in the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix held earlier this week in New Delhi. Anas was clocked at 45.41 seconds just outside the Rio Games qualifying standard of 45.40. However, a power blackout meant timings were recorded manually and did not count. Rajiv set a personal best of 45.57 at the military games in Mungyeong in October.
Arpinder Singh (triple jump)
The 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner has a personal best of 17.17 metres but not much is known of his current form as he has been training abroad for most of the last year. The qualifying mark for the men’s triple jump is 16.85, well within the potential of this athlete.