Field lacks quality in National Open 400m championship

Upbeat after the nationwide enthusiasm generated by Neeraj Chopra’s gold-winning feat at Tokyo, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) lined up a short series of competitions but the lukewarm response from the athletes continues to be a worry.

After the lack of quality fields in the recent National under-23 meet, the Nehru Stadium is set to witness a similar story when the two-day 3rd National Open 400m championship begins on Monday.

Competitions will be held for boys and girls in the under-16, under-18 and under-20 sections, besides men and women. Heats are scheduled on Monday. Semifinals and finals will be on Tuesday. Athletes without a negative RT-PCR report will not be allowed to participate.

Significantly, leading men and women 400m runners have given this meet a miss. Even those who competed in the recent World Under-20 championships in Nairobi are absent.

When Lucknow hosted the last edition of this meet in 2019, the women’s final saw only three athletes, after two others did not start. This year, too, things are not very different. Only six women have entered the event.

With only the National Open javelin championship scheduled later this month here, the athletes have nothing much to look forward to this season. Next year, the athletes eye a packed calendar, including the World championship, world under-20 championship, Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.

On the brighter side, an added incentive for those participating here in the older age-groups is, their eye-catching performances could get them into the National camps next year. With a bit of luck, some of them could get into the Target Olympic Podium Scheme’s core group or the developmental group.

Rejected

Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of India rejected 50 athletes who have either not achieved the qualification standards for the event or for producing invalid or fake certificates.

Uttar Pradesh heads the list of rejected athletes with 13 while Maharashtra and Rajasthan have seven each.

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