CHENNAI: India’s 400m record-holder Muhammad Anas will be one of the star attractions at the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix (IGP) in March. Anas, who had entered to compete in the second IGP in New Delhi on Wednesday, had to pull out because of a small injury.
Anas’ injury, coupled with small niggles and other problems faced by several of India’s elite athletes meant that the first two IGPs saw some very poor times.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has looked into the problem as well. Usually, participating in these meets is a must but they have taken cognisance of the fact that there have been lots of injuries. Some, like Hima Das, who was also scheduled to take part in New Delhi, skipped it because of their exams.
“Some of our athletes are ill, others are injured so they had sought prior permission from AFI to skip these meets,” an AFI source informed this newspaper. “We also didn’t force them because we want them to be focused for the Federation Cup (March 15-18 in Patiala), which will act as the main selection trials for the Asian Athletics Championships in April.” That essentially means that athletes who had already met qualifying guidelines will anyway have to “take part in the Federation Cup to be considered for selection for the AAC” in April.
However, AFI have decided to exempt the likes of Tejaswin Shankar, national record holder in the men’s high jump, because even he has got exams at Kansas State University (KSU). “He wrote to us, conveying his inability to take part there (Federation Cup) and we cleared it. He told us he will continue to take part in the circuit there.” Tejaswin, in fact, has already met the criteria set by AFI (2.25m) when he won gold in the Big12 collegiate athletic meet with a jump of 2.28m last week.” Other exemptions include the likes of Neeraj Chopra.
Australian athletes to be invited?
To address the problem of a lack of quality in the Indian Grands Prix, AFI is mulling over a proposal to invite Australian athletes next year. “We are looking at it,” a high-ranking official said. “We might invite Australian athletes next year. Considering it’s an Olympic year, it will be good competition for our athletes.” India have, in the past, invited athletes from neighbouring countries but AFI may not want to go down that route next year. “No point in getting athletes from countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka because that isn’t the greatest competition to our athletes.”