Are our top stars running scared?
Some of our country’s leading athletes have been going through some strange ups and downs in their performance graph this season and their appearance in the National inter-State championships, in Lucknow from August 27, would have offered a fine chance to show where they stand with the Doha Worlds about a month away.
But surprisingly, many of the track and field stars including the much-pampered men’s and women’s 4x400m relay runners, who have now moved their camp base from Poland to the Czech Republic, will be staying away from the inter-State event which is the Athletics Federation of India’s qualification event for the World championships.
“Seven men and six women from the quartermilers’ bunch (including Muhammed Anas, M.P. Jabir, A. Dharun, Hima Das, V.K. Vismaya and M.R. Poovamma) will not be coming for the inter-State meet. Javelin throwers Shivpal Singh and Annu Rani (both have qualified for the Worlds) will also not take part nor will Vipin Kasana who is very close to qualifying for the Worlds,” Radhakrishnan Nair, the Deputy Chief Coach, told The Hindu on Tuesday.
Competition in Czech Republic
“We are arranging a competition in Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic, which is very close to where they are staying, on August 24.
“We will compare the results of this meet, and the results of their recent meets, and also the results of the Inter-State meet to delete or add names for the relay team (for the Worlds).
“And the selection committee may send back someone from the bunch in the Czech Republic and may include athletes from the Inter-State if the performances are good.”
Though things will only be clear on September 6, Radhakrishnan is almost sure that all the 4x400m mile relay teams (men, women and mixed) will be among the 16 teams and make it to the Worlds.
By allowing its top stars to stay away from the Lucknow meet, the AFI is being unfair to athletes who are training at home. One, because the playing field — the track, weather and other conditions — in India and the Czech Republic are not the same. And with the big names missing, there will be none to push the athletes in Lucknow, so timings and performances could be lower than expected.
Like the Federation Cup in Patiala in March which was the AFI’s main qualification event for April’s Doha Asian championships, the AFI had made it clear months earlier that the Inter-State would be a qualification event for the Worlds. It is now surprising to see that the national federation has gone out of its way to seek a visa extension so that its stars could stay tucked away in the Czech Republic instead of facing the battle at home.
One gets the feeling that there is a worry among athletes and coaches, that some of the stars who are training abroad could lose to the athletes in Lucknow.
Many close followers of the sport have also raised eyebrows over the wild swings in performances of some big names, including shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, triple jumper Arpinder Singh — both Asian Games champions — and Shivpal Singh (javelin throw) — in foreign meets, and in some cases the strange one-month gap between these heavy up-and-down shows.
They see a strange pattern…that could be a worry too.