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Top athletes stay away from Asian meet

K.P. Mohan

A trial for the venue and athletes

NEW DELHI: The Asian All-Star athletic meet is supposed to be for the ‘cream' of the continent. It rarely turns out to be so in practice. The one to be held at the newly-opened, remodelled Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday and Friday will at best provide an opportunity to assess the preparedness of the Indian athletes in facing the challenge of competing at the highest level in the Commonwealth Games in October.

Only into its third edition, the meet has once again attracted very few top athletes of Asia. China has entered just three athletes.

The Chinese were reportedly getting ready for the National championships that would form the selection trials for the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.

From the Indian viewpoint, the progress made by the athletes since mid-June will be keenly followed, with particular focus on the woman quarter-milers who were training in Ukraine, triple jumper Renjith Maheswary and shot putters Om Prakash Singh and Saurabh Vij.

All of them are being counted as possible medal contenders in the Commonwealth Games and this meet offers them another platform to build on their reputations and current form.

The US-based Indian discus thrower Vikas Gowda, and Om Prakash Singh, who had been training in Finland were expected to participate, though there could be no final confirmation about their arrival here.

Official information was hard to get on the eve of the meet as hundreds of policemen guarded an empty Nehru Stadium — barring the AFI and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee officials even as athletes, Indian and foreign, trained at the nearby Thyagaraj Stadium, guarded only by a handful of security men!

Gowda will not have the company of Asian record holder Ehsan Hadadi or his Iranian teammate Mohammad Samimi, both having pulled out at the last moment.

In men's shot put, Om Prakash Singh, the Asian champion, has been showing a fluctuating form, with 19.58 in Pune, 19.80 in Bangalore, 18.45 in Chennai and 19.12 in Lapinlahti, Finland, just ten days ago.

No consistency

In a majority of the events, the Indian athletes have had no consistency through the season so far and it is time they showed their capabilities even if the field here is ordinary.

The lack of quality entries had forced the AFI to have a re-think on hosting this meet. Eventually, the home athletes would fill in the majority of the slots, with four to five of them completing the line-ups in many events.

The leading male quarter-miler, Shakeh Mortaja is not competing while K. M. Binu will have the chance to show that he could be a contender for an individual berth in the Indian team for the Asian Games.

Star-cast

Asian champion Sajad Moradi of Iran, originally entered in the 800 metres, has withdrawn, making it easier for the Indians, among whom Prakash Varma and Pankaj Dimri are the men in form.

Among the younger Indians, the performance of Gayathri Govindaraj, following her feats in the recent World junior championships in Moncton, Canada, will be eagerly followed.

The 19-year-old Tamil Nadu girl made the finals in the 100m hurdles and triple jump there. Earlier she had achieved a personal best 13.58m while coming second in triple jump in the Asian junior championships in Hanoi.

The presence of a few top-level Kazakh and Uzbek woman athletes should give the meet the much-need boost in terms of star-cast. Asian Games champion Guzel Khubbieva is there in the 100 metres and that could spur Indian H. M. Jyothi to greater heights.

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