A host of top Indian athletes will be in action in the four-day Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championship which begins in Patial on Friday.
Among those who will be seen in action include India’s new sprint sensation Hima Das, her male counterpart quartermiler Mohammad Anas, Asian Games gold medallists Jinson Johnson (800m and 1500), Manjit Singh (800m and 1500m), Arpinder Singh (triple jump), Tajinder Singh Toor (shot put), Swapna Barman (heptathlon).
However star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who is currently training in South Africa since January 12, has been exempted from participation in this first big meet of the season, which also serves as the selection trials for the April 19-24 Asian Championships in Doha.
National record holder long jumper M Sreeshankar will also miss the event as he is injured while Delhi high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, who is on a full scholarship at the Kansas State University in USA, will not compete due to clash with examination dates.
The Athletics Federation of India has made it mandatory for all the athletes, except those who have been exempted, to take part in the Federation Cup if they want to get selected for the Asian Championships.
However, the selection committee is expected to take a final call on the matter.
More than 700 athletes will compete in the championship. The AFI has already laid down tough qualifying standards for the Asian Championships.
Javelin thrower Davinder Singh Kang, who was a strong competitor of Neeraj till 2017 when he tested positive for a banned drug, will return to action after being cleared of doping charges.
Shot putter Inderjeet Singh will also participate in the meet after the decision of the Anti-Doping Appeal Panel of the NADA to exonerate him in his 2016 doping case.
Inderjeet, a 2014 Asian Games bronze winner and 2015 Asian champion, competed in the recent Indian Grand Prix series, posting a best of 19.35m for second place in the opening meet at Patiala. He will have a tough competition from Toor in the Federation Cup.
The women’s 400m race will be one of the most anticipated events with the field having Hima Das, VK Vismaya and seasoned MR Poovamma. Vismaya had stunned the World U-20 champion Hima at the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix series earlier this month.
Silver medallist in the 100m and 200m in the Asian Games, Dutee Chand will be the star attraction in the same events. She will face stiff competition from Hima in the women’s 200m.
The men’s 400m will witness Asian Games triple silver medallist and national record holder Muhammad Anas Yahiya competing against Arokia Rajiv, Sachin Roby and Muhammad Kunhu while Ayyasamy Dharun is the favourite to win the 400m hurdles gold.
An interesting three-way contest is on the cards in men’s 1500m event among Jinson Johnson, Manjit Singh and Ajay Kumar Saroj. Manjit had pipped Johnson for gold in the Asian Games 800m race.
The women’s 1500m will see the likes of Lili Das and PU Chitra trying to outdo each other. Maharashtra’s Archana Adhav will also provide strong competition to the two runners.
Gold medallist in Asian Championships in 2017, Govindan Lakshmanan will participate in the long distance double of 5000 and 10000 metres.
Asian Games gold medallist Arpinder Singh will start as favourite to win the gold in men’s triple jump. Neena Pinto and last year’s Fed Cup gold medallist Nayana James will vie for the gold in the women’s long jump.
In the women’s javelin throw, national record holder Annu Rani will be the overwhelming favourite to win the gold.
Asian Games gold winner Swapna Barman will try to break 6000-point barrier in heptathlon but Odisha’s Purnima Hembram is expected to push her all the way.
The men’s high jump field will be a depleted one in the absence of last edition’s winner Tejaswin as well as silver medallist Siddharth Yadav. S Siva, the national record holder in pole vault, will be back to defend his crown in Patiala.
(With PTI inputs)