2019 World Athletics Championships: Where does the Indian contingent stand?
The 17th edition of IAAF World Championships in Athletics will take place at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar for 10 days between September 27 and October 6.
The 17th edition of IAAF World Championships in Athletics will take place at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar for 10 days between September 27 and October 6. With Doha assuring the biggest ever championships, as much as 1928 athletes (1039 men + 889 women) from 209 countries and territories initially entered for 2019 – a record both in terms of the number of athletes as well as countries!
India initially entered a team of 25 athletes (including 16 men and 9 women) and subsequently added sprinter Dutee Chand in women's 100 metres run. However, the team had a major setback when World junior 400m champion Hima Das aggravated an injury and pulled out from the squad, that paving way for the inclusion of Anjali Devi in the team.
Anjali did have to go through a 'confirmatory trial' on 21st September before the AFI cleared her. But the fact remains that she registered the best Indian performance of the season in 400m with 51.53 secs clocking at inter-state championships in Lucknow just a few weeks ago.
For Indians, the only medal in the senior World Championships came through long jumper Anju Bobby George who won a bronze medal in 2003 in Paris with a leap of 6.70m.
Let us have a look at the present Indian Team and where they stand on the Doha start-lists:
Metric miler Jinson Johnson will be the first Indian athlete to take part in men's 1500m at the Worlds. His recent outing on the European circuit had been highly successful. After improving the national mark twice in the season, he completes his pre-Doha odyssey on a high note with a second-place finish in the prestigious ISTAF in Berlin with a national record 3:35.24 closely behind American Josh Thompson (3:35.01) and beating Kenya's All-African Games silver medalist Cornelius Tuwei (3:35.34). Jinson needs to employ wisdom in order to enter the finals in Doha.
P U Chitra
Similarly, Jinson's Kerala state-mate and reigning Asian champion P U Chitra will be a first-time woman entrant in 1500m from India. Having denied an opportunity to represent the national team two years ago in London even after winning a legal battle in a Kerala High Court in her favour, the middle-distance runner from an economically poor background in Palakkad is now making her second flight to Doha in a year after the continental championships in April. One can not predict any big ambition for this young woman at the Worlds as her chances of making it to the final will be very tough when comparing to her performance in the season. However, Chitra is a determined athlete and always keep some surprises in store for her fans.
The Long Jump used to be a highly unpredictable event and Murali Sreeshankar always surfing through that volatile field. As a teenager, he made a giant leap of 8.20m in Open Nationals in Bhubaneswar last year to eclipse the national mark and booked an early berth for the Worlds. However, he did touch the 8 metres mark only once this season while winning the Indian Grand Prix in Patiala last month and expected to be 'peak' at the time of Worlds in Doha.
Steeplechaser Avinash Sable, who won a silver medal in the Asian meet at Doha earlier this year, will certainly try his might to prove a point at the same venue during the Worlds. Although a medal will not be in his reach, the Maharashtrian may gain some global experience and a chance to qualify for next year's Olympic Games.
Tejinder Pal Singh Toor
Like Chitra, shot putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor is making the team as 'Asian Champion'. Although Indian shot putters etched their names several times at the continental meets, only few of them carved it at the global competitions. Inderjit Singh, the World University Games champion, finished a credible eleventh in the 2015 Worlds in Beijing. Tejinder needs to work on consistency, in throws, to make the cut in the final twelve in Doha.
India fields javelin throwers in both the sexes. Shivpal Singh emerged high with a silver medal finish at Doha Asian Championships with a personal best 86.23m after World U20 champion Neeraj Chopra opted out this season as he underwent surgery. However, Shivpal could not touch his best mark again in this season. His recent win in Vlasim, Czech Republic, on 30th August measured to 81.36 metres only. The Doha podium will surely witness 90+ performers in the coming weeks. The best Indian result at the Worlds was that of Davinder Singh Kang in London 2017, where he finished twelfth in 80.02m.
Annu Rani improved her national mark to 62.34m during the Federation Cup in Patiala this March. The best mark in her European stint came at the beginning of this month in Domazlice, Czech Republic, with 61.79m throw to win over a small gathering of foreign athletes. It was Annu Rani's second successive world championship appearance after London, where she finished 20th in the qualifying round with a nondescript 59.93m.
Gopi Thonakkal, the lone marathoner from India, also making his second appearance in the Worlds. In London, he finished 28th with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 13 seconds. Gopi clocked an impressive 2:13:39 to finish eleventh in the Seoul International Marathon earlier this year.
KT Irfan, Devender Singh
India fields two race walkers, KT Irfan and Devender Singh, in Doha. Irfan finished twelfth in the London Olympics seven years ago. However, the best Indian performance in the Worlds remains with Babu Bhai Panucha, who in 2009 finished 19th with a time of 1 hr 23 min 6 secs.
India fields three 4x400m relay teams in Men, Women and Mixed Categories. The "Mixed Relay" making its debut in the World Championships in Doha. Earlier Indian pinned its hope on this event after two successful Asian Games (Jakarta 2018) and Asian Championships (Doha 2019) appearances in this event.
However, the exit of Hima Das and a highly inconsistent lot of quarter-milers throw doubts over the team's formation and execution at Doha Worlds. Anjali Devi is in the team, having proved her mettle on the 'confirmatory trials'. Muhammed Anas is being kept away from the individual 400m event to secure his services for the relay. However, to win a medal in the relay, the quartet should be formed with conscience and tactics besides leaving any personal ideas at the rear!