The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has confirmed that foreign athletes will be taking part in the Inter-State Athletics Championships. The tournament, which is to be held in Patiala from June 25-29, is the last Tokyo Olympics qualification event for India's track and field athletes.
“Athletes from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Chinese Taipei have been invited for the Inter-State competition, scheduled to be held in Patiala. All the mandatory Standard Operating Procedures will be strictly followed and we are not going to provide accommodation to the teams,” announced AFI in a statement.
The AFI has also said that all possible measures are being taken to maintain safety protocols during the pandemic. To avoid large gatherings, the national athletics body has decided to hold the Inter-State Athletics Championships in two different venues in Patiala.
“We are planning this competition very carefully due to the pandemic situation. To avoid large gatherings at one place, we have decided to host the competition at two different locations in Patiala. National Institute of Sports will be the venue for 24 events while other 19 events will be held at Punjabi University grounds,” said AFI chief Adille Sumariwalla.
So far 14 Indian track and field athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. The count could have been more had the Indians been able to travel to Europe for competitions and training. The Inter-State Athletics Championships will thus provide the likes of Hima Das and Dutee Chand a final chance to book their Tokyo tickets.
How can Dutee Chand, Hima Das qualify for the Tokyo Olympics?
In the current ‘Road to Olympic Games’ rankings, Dutee Chand is India’s best bet to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Chand stands at 40th and 41st position in the women’s 100m and 200m respectively out of a total of 56 entries for the Games. The Inter-State Athletics Championships will thus help her gain some valuable points to improve her ranking.
However, for Hima Das, things are tougher. In the women’s 200m and 400m, the ‘Dhing Express’ is nowhere near the qualifying spots. She will definitely need to meet the qualifying standards at the Inter-State Athletics Championships in Patiala to book her maiden Olympic Games quota.