Indian athletics team eyes improvement at Glasgow Commonwealth Games
The athletics contingent of India hopes to make a statement at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and strive to make amends for the shoddy performances in past editions. The bar has been raised in the last couple of years with the success of several athletes in international competitions, and meeting the heightened expectations will prove to be a great challenge for all the members in the team.
Vikas Gowda – among the clear favourites
The Indian contingent will be led by champion discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who aims to clinch the gold this time. Vikas’ performances since the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where he secured the silver medal with a throw of 63.69 m, have greatly improved, with throws of 64.79m at the 2012 Olympic Games and 64.90m at the 2013 Asian Championships in Pune (where he secured the gold).
The ace thrower encountered a lot of problems related to funding his training in USA, and it took a while for him and his father Shive, who is also his personal coach, to sort things out. But for now things are looking pretty good for the strapping lad, and he would be hoping to win a medal for his country, at the very least.
Krishna Poonia and the women’s relay team – strong contenders
Defending champion Krishna Poonia is also one of the favourites in discus throw, but her recent diversion into mainstream politics might prove to be a distraction. She faces a tough challenge from her teammate Seema Antil, who secured the bronze at the 2010 Games and has shown improved performances this season.
The scintillating performance of the 4x400m women’s relay team at the 2010 edition was completely overshadowed by the doping allegations and subsequent bans, but they will seek redressal in Glasgow. The team, comprising 800m Asian Championship gold medalist Tintu Luka this time, will hope to secure a position on the podium.
Om Prakash and Mayookha Johny join the fray
Om Prakash Singh Karhana, who secured the gold at the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship earlier in February, is also among the medal hopefuls in Glasgow. The outdoor national record holder at 20.69m, Prakash finished 5th at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, and will face strong challenge from countries like Canada, England and Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Mayookha Johny, the first Indian woman to cross the 14m mark in Triple Jump, is expected to to put in a solid performance too. Triple jump has not traditionally been seen as an area of strength for Indian athletes, but after Renjith Maheswary’s bronze at the 2010 edition, that might be about to change.
The absentees in the athletics team
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) decision to cull the team strength from the original 41 to 32 meant leaving out controversial triple jumper Renjith Maheswary and the six-member men's 4x100m relay team.
Harwant Kaur, the 2010 Commonwealth women’s discus throw silver medalist, will not be part of the 32-member team either, according to the statement released by the Indian Olympic Association. Kaur had not participated in any major event in the past couple of years, the last being the National Inter-State championships in June 2012.
Dutee Chand, the 2013 Asian Championship bronze medalist, was excluded from the team too, as she failed medical tests conducted by the Sports Authority of India South Centre which revealed that the Odisha girl was not eligible to compete in the female category due to high testosterone levels in her body. This last-minute exclusion came as a surprise to all as her name was initially in the list of CWG participants given earlier to some top AFI officials, including Secretary C K Valson.
The 32-member athletics team for 2014 Glasgow CWG
Men’s 4x400m Relay: Rajiv Arokia, Kuni Mohammed, Sachin Roby, Lalit Mathur, Jithu Baby, Jibin Sebastian.
110m Hurdle: Siddhanth Thingalaya
Triple Jump: Arpinder Singh
Shot Put: Om Prakash Karhana
Discus Throw: Vikas Gowda
Javelin Throw: Ravinder Singh Khaira, Devinder Singh, Vipin Kasana.
Hammer Throw: Kamalpreet Singh, Chandrodaya Narayan Singh
Women’s 4x100m Relay: Saradha Narayan, H M Jyothi, Sarbani Nanda, Asha Roy, Santhini Vallikkad, Merlin K Joseph.
Women’s 4x400m Relay: M R Poovamma, Tintu Luka, Debashree Majumdar, Ratandeep Kaur, Anilda Thomas, Ashwini Akkunji.
High Jump: Sahana Kumari
Long Jump: Mayookha Johny
Discus Throw: Seema Punia, Krishna Poonia
Javelin Throw: Annu Rani.
The stage is set, and an undoubtedly challenging task lies ahead for the Indian athletics team. But there is great hope and expectations that the likes of Vikas Gowda and Seema Punia will help India move up the medal tally at Glasgow.