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AFI selects 23 athletes for Ukraine

NEW DELHI, APRIL 29. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has selected a 23-member squad for a trip to Kiev, Ukraine, for a training-cum-competition programme in the run-up to the Athens Olympics.

The squad will leave here on May 1 for a 47-day visit during which period the athletes will compete in meets in Kiev and Moscow.

Originally, a bigger squad was planned for Ukraine but the inability of the men's 4x100m team to come close to expectations, apart from certain constraints at Kiev, forced a reduction in numbers.

On Thursday evening, at least one member of the squad, Navpreet Singh, was weighing his options of staying back at home because of his family pre-occupation.

The relay teams will be hoping to clock timings that will take them to the top-16 status in the world and earn them entry in the Olympics.

Acting Chief Coach of the team, Harbans Singh, felt that the men's 4x400m team was capable of anything between 3:03.6 and 3:02.5 on current form and should be aiming for 3:01.50 to make the grade. The women's team should easily come under 3:28, he said.

The Ukrainian coach of K. M. Beenamol, Yuriy Ogorodnir, said that his star trainee should be aiming for a sub-two-minute timing for the 800m in Ukraine. Beenamol, too, felt confident as she looked ahead after having made a comeback at Patiala after a 19-month gap.

Younger brother K. M. Binu, in the meantime, was confident of aiming for a sub-1:46 timing in the 800 metres and close to a 45.0 flat effort in the 400 metres.

The athletes would be leaving in a happy frame of mind after having received the balance amount under the Government incentive awards.

Of the enhanced amount promised to sportspersons for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, only part payment was made last year.

The team:

Men: Anil Kumar (200m), P. Ramachandran, K.J. Manojlal, Satbir Singh, Bhupinder Singh, P. Shankar and K. Suresh (4x400m relay), K. M. Binu (800m), Bahadur Singh and Navpreet Singh (shot put).

Women: Saraswati Saha (200m), Jincy Philip, S. Geetha, Manjeet Kaur, Rajwinder Kaur, and Chitra K. Soman, K. M. Beenamol and Madhuri Singh (800m), J. J. Shobha and Pramila Aiyappa (heptathlon), Neelam J. Singh, Seema Antil and Harwant Kaur (discus). — Our Special Correspondent

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