Hoping for a change in fortunes in Indian athletics, the country's track and field stars are going the extra mile to seal Tokyo Olympic spots.
As the quadrennial event draws closer, the race to qualify for the Olympics across disciplines is heating up. Indian track and field exponents are eyeing a good showing in the domestic meets to qualify for the Games.
The Olympic qualification period in track and field events restarted with the Indian Grand Prix (IGP) Series in February this year. However, none of the athletes were able to meet the Olympic qualifying standards.
Deadline for the Olympic qualification period
India's leading female athletes, including Dutee Chand and Hima Das, will be keen to put on their best show ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Having failed to achieve the qualifying standards at the IGP and the Federation Cup, they will hope to make amends at the IGP IV to be held on June 15 in Bengaluru. The final track and field qualifying event will be the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships, scheduled to take place from June 25-29. The athletics qualification window for the Tokyo Olympics will close on June 29.
Hima, Dutee look to boost qualification hopes for Tokyo Olympics
While athletics has never been India's forte, Hima and Dutee have raised hopes of Olympic excellence with their improved performances over the past few years.
With a personal best of 50.79 seconds in 400m, Hima remains a bright prospect for India. She smashed her own 400m national record at the 2018 Asian Games to pocket a silver medal. The Olympic qualifying standard for women's 400m is 51.35 seconds and it is thus well within Hima's grasp.
Hima has shown promise with her exploits at the recently-concluded Federation Cup. She bagged the top honors after clocking 23.21 seconds in the women's 200m event. However, she failed to breach the qualification mark of 22.80 seconds.
Another of India's ace female runners, Dutee Chand, will be racing against time to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics. She came close to the 100m qualification timing of 11.15 seconds when she clocked 11.22 seconds at the 2019 National Open Championships.
Dutee began her 2021 campaign with a 100m gold medal in the first leg of the IGP that saw her finish in a blistering 11.44 seconds. She was deprived of a second gold at the Federation Cup by Dhanalakshmi, who clocked 11.39 seconds.
While Dutee has shown enough potential to make the Olympic cut, it could be a tough road ahead for the Rio Olympian. She plans to compete in Europe in the coming months to move closer to the qualification mark and better her world rankings.
Tamil Nadu's Dhanalakshmi could spring a surpise in 100m
Following her stupendous Federation Cup campaign, Tamil Nadu's Dhanalakshmi is another Olympic hopeful. The 23-year-old made a big breakthrough after beating title-favorite Dutee in women's 100m to take home the gold.
She put up another solid showing by clocking 23.26 seconds in the women's 200m semifinal heats. Dhanalakshmi outpowered world junior champion Hima Das, who came second with a timing of 24.39 seconds. With this achievement, Dhanalakshmi has inched closer to the qualification timing of 22.80 seconds in 200m.
At the Federation Cup, she also broke PT Usha's women's 200m meet record that stood unbroken for 23 years. Dhanalakshmi is undoubtedly in prime position to become one of the biggest names in Indian athletics.