New Delhi, June 21 The five-day Inter-State Athletic Championships 2023, which ended at Bhubaneswar on Monday, lived up to its expectations as on the final two days of the competition, shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor and long jumper Murali Sreeshankar set the standard high with world-class performances.
Toor hogged all the limelight on the final day of the competition when he threw the shot put as far as 21.77 metres to improve his two-season-old Asian record of 21.49m. Needless to say a new national record, the effort was also good enough to breach the qualifying standard of the World Athletics Championships.
Sreeshankar’s 8.41m leap was no mean feat too as he came within 1cm of the national record with the holder Jeswin Aldrin himself competing in the tournament as the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) made it mandatory for all elite athletes (except javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the Olympic gold medallist, and steeplechaser Avinash Sable) to compete in Bhubaneswar to qualify for the Asian Games.
Apart from the two highlight performances of the Inter-State Athletics Championships, several athletes expectedly qualified for the Asian Games as well. And a few also qualified for the upcoming World Championships in Budapest.
But can we expect a rich medal haul, with so many of the Indian athletes making the cut?
The good news is that the Asian Games promises glory with the quadrennial event being a happy hunting ground for Indian athletes. While the likes of Toor, Sreeshankar, Aldrin, Neeraj and Avinash Sable are among the front-runners to bring back gold from Hangzhou, the expectations are no different from Jyothi Yarraji (100m hurdles), Jinson Johnson (1500m), Praveen Chithravel and Eldhose Paul (triple jump).
A few other Indian athletes are also expected to be in medal contention — they include Anjali Devi (400m), Deeksha KM (800m), Harmilan Bains (1500m), Swapna Barman (heptathlon) and Tejaswin Shankar (decathlon).
A dress rehearsal of the Asian Games would be on display during the Asian Athletics Championships in July when most of these names will be competing in Bangkok after they qualified through the Federation Cup in Ranchi last month.
However, the real challenge remains the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August. Neeraj Chopra will be in the spotlight, aiming to become the World Champion for the first time while both Sreeshankar and Aldrin will lay claim to medals as well after being the world-leading performers with their big jumps this season.
Tajinderpal Singh Toor will have a shot at a medal as well if he repeats his big throw from the Inter-State Athletics. However, there’s a point worth pondering about as none of these stars really brought out their A-Game in foreign conditions. However, Indian athletes will be expected to buck the trend just like Neeraj did in the Tokyo Olympic Games two years ago.
(This article is from a syndicated feed and has not been edited by The SportsGrail)