Hyderabad: Olympic javelin throw gold medallist Neeraj Chopra would not be there for the 60th National Open Athletics Championships that begins from Wednesday at the newly laid Rs 7 crore synthetic track at J.N. Stadium, Hanamkonda, Warangal but his Tokyo spectacular show could inspire many young athletes to take their performances to a new high. This being the first major championship after the Tokyo Olympics, it is a big challenge for young athletes to make a mark and follow in the footsteps of Chopra, who has ushered a new era in Indian athletics. The meet concludes on September 19 (Sunday).
Apart from Chopra, many of the big names of the Tokyo Olympics like sprint champion Dutee Chand, Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m steeplechase), Murali Sreeshankar (men’s long jump), KT Irfan (20km walk), have opted out of this meet. Even the junior Indian athletes who won medals at Under-20 World Athletics like Shalini Singh (silver in long jump), Amit Khatri (silver in 10,000m), 4x400m relay team of Bharath Sridhar, Priya Mohan, Summy and Kapil (bronze) would not be seen action in this meet.
Nevertheless, their absence could give other young athletes a chance to showcase their talent as this event holds significance in lieu of the next year’s Asian and Commonwealth Games. A good show here would ensure a place in the National camp.
The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) deserves a pat on their back to hold the nationals at a district headquarters like Warangal, which is one of the fastest growing cities of Telangana after Hyderabad. This event comes one year after they successfully held the Junior Nationals and National Cross country meet in 2020. But this big event of huge participation will test their organizational capabilities. Adille Sumariwalla, president of AFI, said it is good to see senior nationals being held in a small place like Warangal. “We want to take athletics to small places where we can encourage new talent from district level,’’ he said.
For Dronacharya awardee Nagpuri Ramesh, it is a dream come true as he hails from Hanamkonda. “It is a big moment as nationals will be held in this city. It will encourage new talent from the small places. This new track is part of the Khelo India project,’’ he said.
Stanley Jones, Chairman of Technical Committee of AFI and president of Telangana Athletic Association, said it is exciting to see the nationals at Warangal. “It is a new track and we expect some good results. We are using the latest electronic gadgets and we have brought a few pieces of equipment from Hyderabad,’’ he added.
Stanley also said they will be following strict Covid-19 protocols. “We are asking all the officials and the participants to come with Covid-19 certificates. We will not allow any non-participants on the field barring the officials concerned and the athletes,’’ he pointed out.
Meanwhile, senior journalist G Rajaraman, who has been a keen observer of Indian athletics, said in the absence of seasoned athletes, it gives an opportunity for the fresh talent to be noticed in this meet. “It is nice to see a national event being hosted in Warangal and this is a proud moment for Telangana. It will give inspiration to the young talent in the districts to take to this sport. Having a synthetic track in a small city like Warangal is a big achievement by the district officials and the association. The Telangana Athletic Association, too, has played a big part in hosting this prestigious event,’’ he said.
Hosts Telangana are pinning hopes on women’s 4x100m relay squad of Nitya, Nandini, Deepthi, Harika. Harika and Nitya have good chances in 100m while Deepthi and Harika are good bets in 200m. Nandini too looks good in 100m hurdles.
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