Indian athletes in good space

Spate of withdrawals should help garner a handful of medals
Last Updated 30 September 2010, 16:39 IST

Traditionally, India have done very little of note in track and field at the Commonwealth Games. In eighty years of Games’ history, India have won just ten medals – one gold, five silver and four bronze.

Milkha Singh’s gold medal in the 440-yard race at Cardiff in 1958 is India’s lone golden moment and a big team will have the onerous task of coming close to that achievement at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium when the athletics competition begins on October 6.

The prospects did not look all that rosy till recently, but a spate of pull-outs due to various reasons and some solid performances in recent days have raised Indian hopes on the track.

None has been more impressive than Tintu Luka, the 800M runner from PT Usha’s stable, whose timings have improved as frequently as the number of withdrawals from her pet event. Add a strapping shot-putter, a clutch of talented long jumpers and a couple of women discus throwers, and India will have some reason for cheer in the showpiece event.

Tintu, who breached Shiny Wilson’s 1995 national record with a blazing 1:59.17 at Split on September 3, would have eyed a good time here in preparation for the Asian Games but after the latest withdrawal – that of Caster Semenya – a medal looks very much possible for the 21-year-old, who is now second behind Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair in terms of timings.

Shot-putter Om Prakash Singh too could make a mark but he has to be at his very best to challenge the likes of Canada’s Dylan Armstrong and Jamaica’s Dorian Scott, who have better performances this season than the Indian’s 19.99 metres.

Having put behind an injury-marred season, woman long jumper Mayookha Johny has touched her best this year but to be in the medal bracket, she will have to leap further than her peak effort of 6.64 metres. Mayookha will also face a different challenge of trying find a balance between long jump and triple jump, where she broke Anju George’s national record with a 13.68M leap in August.

Seema Antil’s silver in women’s discus was India’s lone individual success at Melbourne 2006. This time, the discus triumvirate of Seema, Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur haven’t really set the circles afire but with the standard in the event not very high, they will be hoping to go farther, especially with Aussie world champion Dani Samuels not in the fray.

A spectacular run last month pitch-forked Pankaj Dimri into the spotlight in the men’s 800 but he needs to do better to nurse any hopes against the army of top-class runners from Africa. The withdrawal of some top runners does give Dimri hope but for him, and for India, it is all a question of raising their level on the given day. Athletics medals, certainly, do not come easy at the Commonwealth Games.

(Published 30 September 2010, 16:39 IST)

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