Olympic berths up for grabs

Olympic berths up for grabs

Men's 4x400 relay team, Johnson in focus

Olympic berths up for grabs

Indian athletes have never had it so good when it comes to opportunities to meet the Olympic grade. From India to Kazakshtan and from Poland to Thailand, they have traversed the globe for training and competitions this season. Many have made the grade but for the ones on the verge, a final chance arrives here over the next two days.

The third and fourth Indian Grand Prix meets, hastily arranged in an attempt to meet the athletes' wishes, is a godsent opportunity for a clutch of competitors, chiefly the men's 4x400 relay team, to meet the Olympic norm before the deadline ends on Monday night.

The Inter-State meet at Hyderabad was expected to be the perfect chance for the men's longer relay squad featuring A Dharun, P Kunhumohammed, Arokia Rajiv and Mohammed Anas to clock a time that would have pushed them into the elite-16 nations eligible to compete in Rio.

With a second-string squad from Sri Lanka as their mandatory opposition, the Indians missed their goal narrowly thanks to a slow final changeover.

After their 3:03.71 at Hyderabad, the Indians are placed 17th in the world and if they manage to time 3:03.34 or better, they will be in a position to break into the top-16. "We should have sealed it in Hyderabad but we are confident that we can do it here tomorrow," said Kunhumuhammed.

To meet the mandatory requirement, Maldives are the invitees this time with Sri Lankans -- competing in their nationals -- arriving only in time for Monday's meet. With India nursing hopes in the women's 4x100 as well, the island nations will be fielding teams in all four relays.

The women's 4x400 team is placed 12th and as it stands, they are well-placed to qualify. Still, they would love to deliver a quality time to seal the deal. Tintu Luka -- who has been struggling to get entries into quality meets abroad -- M R Poovamma, Anilda Thomas and Nirmala Sheoran ran at Hyderabad and the quartet would be looking to improve their season's best here. Jisna Mathew, P T Usha's ward, is another on the fringes looking to clock a good time.

Jinson Johnson, who timed 1:46.43 in the 800M against the qualifying time of 1:46.00, will also be in focus on Monday, having missed out on a chance to compete in Belgium on Friday due to visa issues. Women's javelin thrower Annu Rani will eye 61.00 metres for the Olympic norm while triple jumper Renjith Maheswary, needing 16.85M, also has Rio in his range in a pit favourable for jumpers.

The women sprint relay team featuring Dutee Chand, Srabani Nanda, H M Jyothi and Merlin Joseph, after their recent national record of 43.42, will hope to clock another quick time but they have a tough task on hand.

DH News Service

Events on Sunday (starting at 3.00 pm): Men: 100M, 5000M, 110M hurdles, long jump, shot put, javelin throw, 4x400M relay. Women: 5000M, long jump, triple jump, shot put, 4x100M relay, 4x400M relay.