Wake-up call before Asian Championship

Athletics: Inter-State meet: Athletes yet to produce good show


Sinimole Paulose

It is the fag end of the season but Indian athletics is yet to get its wake-up call. Records have mostly remained safe in the books for the better part of the summer but with one major championship remaining on the calendar, expectations are naturally high on the eve of the final build-up exercise called the National Inter-State Championships.

The Asian Championships in Guangzhou, China -- coming very late in the season -- are twenty days away. Right through the year, athletes and coaches have repeatedly stated the Asian meet to be their main focus. Just how much, or how effective, their preparations have been towards that target will be revealed over the next four days at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here.

The five Indian Grand Prix meets earlier in the season and the sprints meet in September produced very few performances of note. The Open Nationals that concluded in Bhopal on October 9 saw a hint of improvement in some events while concerns remained unanswered in many. Even though the Athletics Federation of India has a broad idea of the team it wants to send to Guangzhou, it would like those concerns to be addressed here while looking for confirmation of those Bhopal performances.

Tintu Luka, PT Usha’s trainee, was among the few impressive performers in Bhopal, coming up with a personal best of 2:03.53 in the 800 metres and winning the best athlete prize in the women’s section. This is Tintu’s breakthrough year in the senior ranks and she will be looking to improve upon that timing here.

Her main opponent, Sinimole Paulose, was hit by a viral fever just prior to Bhopal and struggled to finish fourth. Sinimole, who underwent a training programme in South Africa after joining the Mittal Champions Trust, said she had still not fully recovered from the effects of the illness, putting a question mark over what could have been the race of the championship.

Profitable area

The women’s 400M has been a profitable area for India at the continental level but this season, the quartermilers have been woefully off-form.

Mandeep Kaur and Manjeet Kaur dipped below 54 seconds in Patiala and Bhopal respectively but a more consistent showing is imperative from them, as also from Chitra K Soman, keeping the relay team’s chances in mind. Tintu, who won silver in Bhopal, is expected to skip the one-lap event here.

There is better news on the men’s side, with Bibin Mathew recovering from fever and SK Mortaja rising as a strong challenger. KM Binu, if he returns to form, will also add lustre to the quartermile contest, even if the Kerala athlete feels he will only be ready for a top-level meet by next season.

Triple jumpers Renjith M and Prajusha MA will look to mark another notch in their journey here. After a prolonged slump, Renjith leapt into prominence again with a 16.68M effort in Bhopal while Prajusha’s 13.41M to win the women’s gold too was noteworthy.

A worrying point, however, has been the up-and-down performances of the women discus throwers. The trio of Krishna Poonia, Seema Antil and Harwant Kaur haven’t really set the circles afire, only Krishna managing to cross 60M this year. A good showing here will certainly raise their morale ahead of the big meet.

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