Bome of them are already on a record-breaking spree but those who are struggling will strive to rediscover form and stake claim in Indian team for the Commonwealth Games as the National Inter-State Athletics Senior Championships are set to kick off in Chennai on Friday.
Olympic Champion Neeraj Chopra will not be competing and the 3000m steeplechase 'record man' Avinash Sable is also unlikely to compete though his name figures in the list of participants. Sources close to Sable reveal that he would skip the five-day event.
The Maharashtra unit, his home state, was also unable to confirm whether he will fly down to India from his training base at Colorado Springs in USA or not. Sable, on Sunday, had finished a creditable fifth with a time of 8:12.48, breaking his own national record for the eighth time during the Diamond League Meeting in Morocco. The Sports Ministry had recently sanctioned the extension of his training stint there till July 24.
Besides being the last major event before the AFI picks the squad for the July 28 to August 8 CWG in Birmingham, athletes can also make a last-ditch effort to touch the qualifying standards for the July 15-24 World Championships in Eugene, USA.
More than 600 athletes from 23 states and Union Territories will vie for top honours. Sri Lanka has also sent an 11-member team. Except for Chopra and possibly Sable and those recuperating from injuries, the cream of Indian athletics will be there.
The seasoned campaigners like Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Seema Punia, Annu Rani, Jyothi Yarraji among women and M Sreeshankar, Tajinderpal Singh Toor and Muhammed Anas Yahiya from among men are all taking part in the event.
Chopra, who had become the first Indian track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold, is currently training in Europe and has a big-ticket contest on June 14 in Finland where he will be up against some of the best in the world.
Can Jyothi Yarraji go sub 13 seconds?
Andhra athlete Jyothi broke the 100m hurdles national record three times last month during her training-cum-competition tour of Europe. She will be under spotlight as she pushes for a sub-13 sec time. Her latest national record stands at 13.04. Her coach James Hillier has said that World Championships qualifying mark -- 12.80s -- would not be easy but would be under her radar.
Another ward of Hillier, Amlan Borgohain of Assam would also be looking to book his place in CWG team after creating a 200m national record (20.52s) at the Federation Cup in April. However, he was not at his best during the recent European stint.
Sreeshankar v/s Jeswin v/s Anees
The long jump pit will be one of the centres of attraction with three members of the 8m club set to renew their rivalry. National record holder Murali Sreeshankar (NR 8.36m) has left behind his Olympics debacle and would be the favourite after his European stint during which he managed 8.31m in Greece. But, he will be fiercely challenged by Jeswin Aldrin (8.20m PB) and Mohammed Anees (8.15m PB).
Hima, Dutee, Dhanalakhsmi rivalry to continue
Fresh from their nearly two-month long training-cum-competition stint in Turkey, the likes of Hima and S Dhanalakshmi would look to claim a slot in the CWG team as well as have a crack at the World Championships qualification.
The duel between Hima and Dutee Chand in 100m will be one of the most anticipated showdowns in the championships while veteran Srabani Nanda is also in the mix. Dhanalakshmi, who had beaten Hima in a race in Europe a few days back, has not entered her name in the 100m dash. But Dhanalakshmi will again be up against Hima in the 200m while Dutee does not feature in that distance though she is an Asian Games silver medallist.
"Missing" Aishwarya Mishra to go up against Priya, Rupal
Up and coming Priya Mohan, Rupal Choudhary and Kiran Pahal will be challenging the established ones like MR Poovamma, Jisna Mathew, Vismaya VK.
Aishwarya Mishra, who surprised many by running 51.18s at the Federation Cup in April and dodged the dope testers, has also entered her name (according to AFI list) from Maharahstra in 200m and 400m.
Veterans to prove a point?
Asian record holder Tajinderpal Singh Toor would be among those who would be keen to hit the straps straightaway after an injury layoff. The 38-year-old discus thrower Seema Punia, the most decorated Indian athletes in the CWG with four medals -- three silver and one bronze -- would aim to qualify for the Birmingham Games and finish on the podium for the fifth time.
Veteran Sudha Singh, 35, who was awarded the coveted Padma Shri last year, will also be in action in women's 3000m steeplechase.
NADA lands in Chennai
With the meet assuming significance in view of the upcoming World Championships and CWG, dope testers from the National Anti-Doping Agency have arrived in Chennai a day in advance, according to local organisers -- Tamil Nadu Athletics Association.
Where to LIVE stream Inter-State Athletics?
You can catch all the LIVE action on Athletics Federation of India's YouTube channel.