The 23rd edition of Federation Cup – senior national athletics championships will start in Patiala from 15th March and the first big championship for Indian track and field athletes has drawn some of the biggest names in the country. The championship will serve as the final opportunity for the athletes to make the cut for the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in Doha from 21-24 April.
The four Indian Grand Prix events saw lukewarm response with a host of athletes choosing to skip the meet and even those who participated didn’t give their best. Federation Cup will run for four days and as always there is plenty to look forward to.
The championship will serve as the final opportunity for the athletes to make the cut for the Asian Athletics Championships to be held in Doha from 21-24 April.
Performance of Quartermilers Under Scrutiny
The AFI has paid a lot of attention to 400m athletes (flat and hurdles included) especially after the Asian Games 2018 where India won silvers in men’s 400m, women’s 400m, men’s 400m hurdles and the 4*400 men’s and mixed relays in addition to the gold in women 4*400.
A batch of 9 women and 12 men athletes trained in Turkey for 79 days during the winters but the lacklustre performance in Indian Grand Prix events in these events raised a lot of questions. Barring Dharun Ayyasamy who clocked 49.95 and made the cut in 400m hurdles, none of the men or women athletes came close to the qualification mark in either flat or hurdles. Rajiv Arokia and VK Vismaya were the fastest athletes over 400m flat in the Indian Grand Prix at 46.32 and 53.60 while the qualification standards are set at 45.85 and 52.75 respectively.
Of particular interest will be the performance of Hima Das who went from strength to strength in 2018. Hima took part in the third Indian Grand Prix and clocked a modest timing of 55:19. Hima, it was revealed post the event, had been given a six week off and coach Galina even went to the extent of saying that the 20-year-old would need 1-2 years of practice to come back to her 2018 performances. Galina’s statements raised a lot of eyebrows and a lot of eyes at the Federation Cup will be on Hima where she is entered for both the 400m and the 200m.
Too Stringent Qualification marks for men in 100m and 200m
While Dutee Chand is flying the Indian flag among women in the shortest of the track events -100m and 200m, there is a definite lack of quality among the men when it comes to these two disciplines.
The AFI has pegged the qualifying mark for 100m and 200m at 10.25 and 20.60 respectively but no Indian athlete breached these marks in 2018. The marks of 10.25 and 20.60 are in fact, faster than the Indian national record of 10.26 and 20.63 respectively. The fastest than an Indian athlete clocked in 2018 was 10.31 which VK Elakkiyadasan clocked in Jakarta. Elakkiyadasan has been training at the JSW backed Inspire Institute of Sports and will try to make a mark over both these events in Patiala.
Rajiv Arokia has entered his name in the 200m as well in addition to the 400m and his clocking of 20.74 in the fourth Indian Grand Prix was one of the notable performances from the Grand Prix events.
The AFI has pegged the qualifying mark for 100m and 200m at 10.25 and 20.60 respectively but no Indian athlete breached these marks in 2018.
Anas and Arokia were the fastest two Indians over 200m last year but with their involvement in relays in addition to the 400m individual event means it is unlikely that will be able to concentrate over the 200m.
Plenty To Look Forward In Throws Despite The Absence of Big Names
Neeraj Chopra – the reigning Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medalist in Javelin throw has been exempted from taking part in the Federation Cup. He will continue to train in South Africa under coach Uwe Hohn but the three other Javelin throwers who were also training in South Africa – Shivpal Singh, Rajinder Singh, and Sahil Siwal will test their mettle in Patiala.
Davinder Sing Kang, who was suspended in November 2017 after testing positive for a steroid, is another big name in the Javelin field. It was reported that he has been cleared of doping charges by WADA & AIU though the WADA maintains it is monitoring the developments.
There are 38 athletes in the Javelin field underlying India’s stature as growing powerhouse in Javelin throw.
The trio of Vipin Kasana, Abhishek Singh & Abhishek Drall threw in an excess of 75m in the recently held Indian Grand Prix meets and will also be in contention for breaching the qualifying mark of 80.75m. There are 38 athletes in the Javelin field underlying India’s stature as a growing powerhouse in Javelin throw.
Coming to Shot Put, Tejinder Pal Singh Toor has already met the qualification standard and has travelled to New Zealand to prepare for the upcoming season. Inderjeet Singh whose suspension was lifted by Indian Anti-Doping Appeal Panel threw 19.35 in the first Indian Grand Prix though WADA has challenged the decision in CAS. Asian Games 2018 bronze medalist in Discuss throw Seema Punia too has been exempted from taking part and in her absence, Navjeet Dhillon will vie for the top honours. Navjeet Dhillon has a good start to the season and threw 56.03 in the fourth Indian Grand Prix.
Tejaswin Shankar and Sreeshankar to Miss Federation Cup; Arpinder Singh To Start His Season
M Sreeshankar, who set the national record in Long Jump when he jumped 8.20m in Open Nationals last year, will be skipping the Federation Cup due to a heel injury. He has requested the AFI to take his trials in the first week of April.
Another big name missing from action in Patiala will be Tejaswin Shankar who holds the high jump national record. Tejaswin though cleared 2.28m last month at the Big 12 collegiate meet in the USA where he is currently studying at Kansas State University. The duo’ s absence gives the opportunity to other athletes to showcase their talent and make the cut of 7.8m for long jump and 2.25m for high jump.
Asian Games 2018 gold medallist in triple jump Arpinder Singh will start his season in Patiala. The stylish Punjabi athlete won the bronze at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava last year and will be looking to build on a promising 2018. Praveen Chitravel – the 2018 youth Olympic Games bronze medallist and 21-year-old Jay Shah who won the gold medal at the National inter-university championships with a jump of 16.36m are exciting prospects to look for in the Triple Jump.
Big Names Present For Middle and Long Distances
Jinson Johnson set national records over 800m and 1500m last year and the middle distance runner starts his season in Patiala. His task especially in 1500m is cut out with Manjit Singh and Ajay Kumar Saroj already achieving the qualification mark in the 4th Indian Grand Prix.
Jishna Mathew made her 800m debut in the Indian Grand Prix and she will be an interesting name to look out for in the Federation Cup over 800m. She clocked around 2:09 in the two Indian Grand Prix meets and will look to challenge the likes of Lili Das & PU Chitra in the 800m. Lili Das & PU Chitra made the cut over 1500m during the fourth Indian Grand Prix.
Sudha Singh, the Asian Games 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist, will be trying to meet the qualification standard of 9: 35. Sudha Singh achieved the World Championship qualifying mark for the marathon at the Tata Mumbai Marathon in January and is in good shape.
The main protagonist in the men’s 3000m steeplechase is Avinash Sable who broke the national record at the Open Nationals in October last year. Sable had a good season opener at the first Indian Grand Prix where his timing of 8:41.87 was 7 seconds adrift of the qualification mark of 8:35. Shankarlal Swami who took part in the Asian Games 2018 will look to challenge Sable. All the prominent names in 5000 and 10000m are entered for the Federation Cup including the favourites – Govindan Lakshmanan and L Suriya.
Other prominent names in the entry list include the duo of Asian Games 2018 gold medallist Swapna Barman and Purnima Hembram who will like to continue their domination in the Heptathlon. All in all the 4-day event in Patiala has attracted the best names in the country as they prepare for a long and an important season that culminates with the World Championships in September-October.