Kerala fancied to retain crown

Kerala fancied to retain crown

Athletics Junior Federation Cup

Kerala fancied to retain crown

A chance to impress the selectors beckon the top Indian juniors as they look to raise the bar at the 14th Junior Federation Cup athletics championships beginning at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.

The Athletics Federation of India has stated that the meet would be the basis for selecting the Indian team for the Asian Junior Championships (June 2 to 6) in Ho Chi Minh City, and as such, the athletes would be looking to step it up by a notch or two on the worn out track here.

More than 500 athletes will be in action but focus will be mainly on the talents from Kerala and Haryana as they renew their fight for the overall title, with Tamil Nadu also aiming to challenge them.

Champions of the last two editions, Kerala have brought a strong team, hoping to defend the title. “We hope to win about 12 gold medals, we are confident of retaining the crown,” Kerala coach P P Paul said.

Among Kerala’s bunch is the talented Abitha Mary Manuel, a trainee of P T Usha, who had won a bronze in the 800 metres at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa last year in a personal best of 2:07.33. That time was good enough to earn her a qualification for the World Junior Championships in July this year in Poland but it came before the qualification period kicked off on October 1.

The smooth-striding Abitha can eye a better show here while another Usha ward Shaharbana Siddique, is the one to watch out for in the 400 metres. Kerala also has top talents in Alphy Lukose (long jump and triple jump) and Neena K T in the walks.

Delhi’s Beant Singh is another to keep an eye on in the boys 800 metres. Beant had set a personal best of 1:48.51 in the Senior Federation Cup three days back, qualifying for the world juniors and setting a world Youth best. “There is no pressure on me as I have qualified for the Worlds, I can just go out there and go for a win,” said the 17-year-old, a trainee of former 400M runner Dinesh Rawat.

Karnataka have fielded a 26-member team and will be hoping to make a mark in their own backyard, trying to regain lost ground.