LUCKNOW: The build-up for the 59th Inter-State Athletics Championship that will begin here at the PAC Athletics Stadium on Tuesday has not been smooth. Despite Indian athletes winning laurels abroad in the past few months, majority of them, including both the relay teams, have failed to qualify for the World Championships in Doha. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has even scheduled an Indian Grand Prix VI on September 5 in New Delhi so that athletes can get one more chance to make the Worlds cut.
With star names like Neeraj Chopra and Tejaswin Shankar out of the Worlds already due to different reasons, the onus will once again be on the relay teams to bring back a medal. However, until a few weeks back, it was not even sure if they will come back from their respective foreign camps to participate in the meet or qualify for the showpiece event. But that has changed now. Muhammed Anas and Dharun Ayyasamy have both confirmed to this daily that they will participate in the relay events in Lucknow.
Apart from Anas and VK Vismaya, none of the quartermilers have been able to give a noteworthy performance so far. The sensational Hima Das might have been on a medal-winning spree. But she has not even come close to her personal best and there are questions over the standard of meets she has participated in. Despite all this, Anas is feeling confident.
Even though there are two meets, the 24-year-old wants to make sure he qualifies in Lucknow itself. “The team is in good shape now. We have had decent timings. Why take it to the Grand Prix if we can seal the deal here? However, the weather here will be tricky after training in Europe. But we will give our best shot, “ he told this daily.
The AFI has pinned its hopes on the quartermilers and relay athletes more than anyone else to perform in Lucknow and believes that every athlete who qualifies has a chance to medal in Doha. “I can’t really speak about the how many will qualify. The coaches will have a better idea about that. But we have given them a late chance to go to Doha. Let us hope they can perform to their best, “ AFI secretary CK Valson said.
The Inter-State meet will also be the first competition that will be held in India after World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) suspended the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) for not meeting WADA standards. With so many athletes participating in Lucknow, Valson is not sure how the dope testing will be done during the event. “They (athletes) will definitely be tested. The samples will be collected. But we are yet to decide on how many samples to collect and where to send them. But I am sure the government would have thought about it. It shouldn’t be a problem,” Valson added.