National Athletics Championships in Patiala attract over 1,000 Asian Games aspirants
Patiala, Aug 15 (IANS): Fresh from their campaign in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Indian athletes are keen to grab Asian Games berths at the Federation Cup National Athletics Championships starting Saturday here at the National Institute of Sports (NIS).
The four-day championships assume a lot of significance as they will serve as the selection trials for the Indian athletics team for Asian Games 2014, to be held in South Korean city of Incheon from September 19 to October 4.
Traditionally, the Asian Games have been the most rewarding international competition for Indian athletics. Since 1951 when the Asian Games were launched, Indian athletes have won 219 medals out of a total of 534 medals won by Indian participants at the mega event.
There are high expectations from the Indian athletes to return with an impressive haul of medals this time around, too. This year's Federation Cup has attracted a record number of entries. Around 1,007 athletes, including 733 men and 274 women, will be competing in the 2014 Championships.
Two international walk race referees, from Malaysia and Indonesia, have been especially invited by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to officiate in the race walk events, where India is considered to be an emerging force.
"This year's Federation Cup assumes special importance because the performance of the athletes here will be used as a guideline for selection to the Indian athletics team for the Incheon Asian Games," said AFI president Adille Sumariwala.
As expected, the competition in the throw events – especially women's discus throw – promises to create a buzz with an exciting line-up in the offing. CWG 2010 gold medallist Krishna Punia, triple medallist in the CWG (2006, '10, '14) Seema Antil and teen sensation Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, who won the bronze in the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, will be in the fray for the title in the women's discus.
"I'm looking forward to the 2014 Asian Games and the Federation Cup should provide some exciting competition to launch the preparation," said Krishna, the first Indian woman to win a gold in the Commonwealth Games.
CWG 2014 bronze medallist in men's triple jump Arpinder Singh seemed confident and raring for more.
"I was aiming for the gold in the Commonwealth Games, but things didn't turn out the way I had planned. I hope to do better at the Asian Games. I've grown up as an athlete at NS Patiala and I hope to live up to the expectations at the Federation Cup." Arpinder said.
Other star athletes who will be watched closely here are 2010 Asian Games bronze medal winner Tintu Luka, who has been recently nominated for the Arjuna Award, woman jumper Sahana Kumari and Mayookha Johny, among others.