The presence of a number of India stars in the 59th National Open Athletics Championships 2019 at the Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Ranchi is expected to raise the quality of competition. The spotlight will be on javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, sprinters Muhammed Anas Yahiya and VK Vismaya, long jumper Sreeshankar, metric miler Jinson Johnson, woman javelin thrower Annu Rani, sprinter Dutee Chand as well as shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, to name a few.
At the start of the new season, leading up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, the meet will be an opportunity for Indian athletes to not only perform well and secure ranking points but also try and match the stiff qualification standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Inevitably, there will be the most interest in tracking Neeraj Chopra’s return to competition. He has not taken part in a championship in more than a year since throwing 83.90m in the Services Athletics Championships in Jalahalli on September 19 last year. He was training in Potchefstroom, South Africa, when it was diagnosed that his elbow injury needed surgery in May last.
With the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year being less than 10 months away, Neeraj Chopra’s return will hold the biggest interest among fans. As India’s premier athlete who won gold in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year, the 21-year-old will be keen to show that his rehabilitation has progressed on expected lines.
“I really went to get back to the competition mode and since this is the last competition of the season, I want to use this competition to get into that feeling of competition. I had spoken to my doctors and they have said I am okay to compete,”
“I am feeling good. Much better now. I started training in Patiala few weeks back and throws are going well in training,” said Neeraj Chopra from Patiala.
There is belief that the men and women’s 400m races will be close since those who have been training overseas and competed for India in events like the IAAF World Relay Challenge in Yokohama and the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha. It will also be a chance for others trying to get into the National squad to display their mettle.
Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of India has rejected the entries of 46 athletes, including 37 men and 9 women, who were seeking to represent Manipur despite not belonging to that State. At its annual general meeting in Agra earlier this year, the Federation had warned all States not to encourage such practices.
Besides, a number of athletes from Karnataka have been accommodated as AFI entries since the Federation had decided to suspend the Karnataka Athletics Association for delaying the intimation to not host the National Open in Bengaluru due to the non-availability of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.