Open National athletics to kick off today

A star-studded field, including 10 London Olympic Games participants, will be in action in the four-day 52nd National Senior Open Athletic Championship starting here from Monday.

A total of 26 defending champions are also expected to generate some interest at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium even though little is at stake in the meet, coming as it does right at the end of a long season.

Athletes from the Indian Railways, who have been dominating the event for the past several years, once again start as favourites.

Discus thrower Krishna Poonia, distance runner Preeja Sreedharan, ace hurdler Joseph G Abraham, and sprinter Tintu Luka are the few top names in the Railways squad. Krishna had finished a creditable seventh at the Olympics.

Shot putter Om Prakash Singh Karhana, triple jumper Mayookha Johny and track star Kavita Raut will be in the ONGC squad, who have roped in quite a few talented athletes and will mount a strong challenge to the Railway outfit.

Race walker K T Irfan, who was tenth at the Olympic Games, leads the Services team while high jumper Sahana Kumari, who set a national record in the Inter-State meet to earn a ticket to the Olympics, leads the Karnataka challenge at the meet.

The Athletics Federation of India is also introducing qualifying rounds for field events to cope with the increased number of entries and that should make way for some interesting contests.

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