Patiala (Punjab) [India], March 14 (ANI): An air of expectation is in evidence at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports complex as it gears up to host the 24th Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships from Monday which will be held without fans.
As many as 617 athletes have registered for 38 events in the five-day meet that would offer an indication of the enthusiasm and evolution of the country's best track and field stars. With the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled to start on July 23 this year, a number of athletes will be looking to consolidate their rankings with good performances here, if not to attain qualifying marks.
For the likes of Steeplechaser Avinash Sable and Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra, the Federation Cup would serve as a platform to chisel the rough edges further.
The three Indian Grand Prix meets (February 18, 25, and March 5) built the stage for the Federation Cup championships. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra's new national record (88.07m) on March 5, long jumper M Sreeshankar's 8.05m effort the previous week and sprinter Dutee Chand's comfortable victories in the 100m in the first two meets were the highlights.
Of the four finals on an opening day, the women's 10,000m and javelin throw events will hold greater attention of fans and connoisseurs alike. Long-distance runner Sanjivani Jadhav will return to national-level track competition after serving a two-year sanction. She will be up against 2019 South Asian Games silver medalist Kavita Yadav, Arati Patil, and a crop of younger competitors.
In the past couple of years, India's top woman javelin thrower Annu Rani has had precious little competition, but she will try and dig deep within her reserves to match the Olympic qualification standard of 64.00. She has embraced consistency, only rarely not producing a throw in excess of 60m. It has taken her to the World No. 12 ranking.
Away from the finals, there will be considerable interest in Dutee Chand's quest to stop the clock inside the 11.15-second mark that would secure automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Sreeshankar will feature in the Long Jump qualifying while Asian Games 800m gold medalist Manjit Singh will return to competition after nearly two years when he runs the 1500m.
Besides, the availability, form and fitness of the men's and women's 400m runners will also evoke more than cursory attention. Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Arokia Rajiv, Dharun Ayyasamy will all showcase their prowess in the two rounds for men on Monday while the women's first-round heats will offer some important pointers.
The Standard Operating Procedures, laid down by the Athletics Federation of India and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, will be in force. Competitors, who are expected to have an RTPCR Negative Report, are being allowed entry into the NIS Campus only two hours before their respective events with no spectators being allowed in the campus. (ANI)