Top athletes eye Asian Games berth

More than a thousand athletes, including most of the country’s top stars, are set to vie for honours and a place in the Indian team for next month’s Asian Games in the Federation Cup National Athletics Championship which begins here on Saturday.

A record number of 1,007 athletes, including 274 women, will take part in the four-day Championships which will also serve as selection trial for the Sep 19-Oct 4 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Except the United States-based discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who won a gold in the recently-concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games, all top track and field stars will be seen in action at the NIS Patiala athletics arena.

As expected the competition in throw events — especially women’s discus — promises to create a buzz with an exciting line-up in the offing. 2010 CWG gold medallist Krishna Poonia, triple medallist in the CWG (2006-2014), Seema Antil-Punia and teen sensation Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, who won a bronze in 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, will be in the fray for the title in the women’s discus.

“I’m looking forward to Asian Games and the Federation Cup should provide some exciting competition to launch the preparation,” said Poonia, who had a light session on Friday.

Men’s triple jump will see a fight between 2014 Glasgow CWG bronze medallist Arpinder Singh and his senior colleague Renjith Maheswary.

“I was aiming for gold in Commonwealth Games, but things didn’t turn out the way I had planned. But, I hope to do better at Asian Games. I’ve grown up as an athlete at NIS Patiala and I hope to live up to the expectations at the Federation Cup,” Arpinder said.

Others who will be seen in action include 2010 Asian Games bronze medal winner Tintu Luka, who was nominated for the Arjuna Award, women high jumper Sahana Kumari and Mayookha Johny. Luka has entered in both women’s 400m and 800m races while Mayookha made entry in women’s long jump as well as triple jump. 2010 Asian Games double gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji who came out of a two-year doping ban last year, will compete in both 400m and 400m hurdles.

The likes of Sudha Singh, Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut will also take part in the Championships.

Two international walk race referees, one each from Malaysia and Indonesia, have been invited by Athletics Federation of India to officiate in the race walk events, where India is considered to be an emerging force.

“This year’s Federation Cup assumes special importance because the performance of athletes here will be used as a guideline for selection for Asian Games,”  AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla said.

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