Defiant Sunil leads challenge

Defiant Sunil leads challenge

 Ashwini Kumar (left), Dharmender Singh, Ajay Veer Singh, Sunil Kumar, Kamlesh Baghel and Anuradha Singh go through their paces at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Friday. DH Photo

The AFI had refused to grant permission for the event and had warned State associations and athletes not to associate themselves with the race. But the mood among the athletes has all along been against the federation decision and on Friday, a few of them came out openly to challenge it.

Sunil was the prominent figure in the group, thanks to his achievements in recent times, including a 5000-10000M double at the Federation Cup earlier this month, besides victories in the South Asian Games  and a fourth-place finish at the Asian Championships last year.

“There is money here, that is why I am running,” said the soft-spoken Sunil, a sub-inspector in Haryana Police. “I am not aware of any AFI restrictions, I have not read about it either. If they want to punish me, let them go ahead. I am ready to face it.”
The top Indian finisher in both the men’s and women’s events will get Rs 150,000 each. A total of Rs 14 lakh is up for grabs for Indians alone.

Besides Sunil, Army man MD Yunus, who was third at the Federation Cup in the 10000M, Sandeep Kumar, the defending champion among the Indians here, and Kashinath Aswale, the Indian winner in the first edition of the race, will be among the participants.
Army will be a major supporter of the event, with 30 of its athletes expected to take part. However, the women’s race will be without the top two distance runners of the country, Kavita Raut and Preeja Sreedharan, who are both in the National camp.

Sunil too was part of the camp but was expelled by coach Nikolay Snesarev on disciplinary grounds about eight months back. “He said I lacked discipline when I didn’t do anything wrong,” said the 28-year-old, who will be making his road-race debut on Sunday.

Preeti L Rao, the winner among Indians in the inaugural edition, will head the women’s field which will also feature Kamlesh Baghel, not unfamilar to the situation prevailing this year.

Four years back, the 26-year-old from Uttar Pradesh had competed as KB in the Bangalore International Marathon, which too had come under an AFI ban. While feigning ignorance about the AFI diktat this year, she voiced her opinion against such a move. “It is not fair, it’s not correct to punish the athletes. It is in these kind of races that we get prize money as well as exposure,” said ‘KB’.

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