The spotlight will be as much on half-a-dozen foreign coaches as the Indian athletes seeking to book Rio Olympic berths when the Federation Cup National Athletics Championships kick off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
At least three coaches have little to show in terms of performance of their wards and the three-day competition, which is also the Rio qualification event, will give experts a chance to evaluate the performance of athletes as well as those who train them.
On the eve of the competition, Belarusian middle and long-distance coach Nikolai Snesarev reserved his comments, saying that he will talk (about his wards) “after the Rio Games”.
His wards --- Sudha Singh, Lalita Babar and OP Jaisha --- have achieved the marathon qualification time for Rio and given a good account in domestic road-race events. Babar has also earned the Rio berth in 3000m steeplechase at the 2015 World meet. But the trio has raised concerns over competing in the marathon event at Rio, instead focusing on track events.
Jaisha has shown interest in 1500m, while Sudha wants to compete in 3000m steeplechase. “The qualifying mark of 9:45.00 is within reach,” said Sudha.
Keeping in mind the sultry weather condition at this time of the year, the Athletics Federation of India technical panel has scheduled the distance races early morning and steeplechase late in the evening. But, concerns over weather remain. “It will be tough,” said Surendra Singh, whose trainees will compete in 5000m tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has pressed the panic button to clean up the stadium before the event kicks off. A lot of athletes felt that with so much dust on the track, work should have started earlier. One of the areas of concern will be the power backup, which had failed last Sunday when the Indian Grand Prix was held.
India’s former international women’s 400m runner Pinki Pramanik will compete in the short dash in the Federation Cup. The Eastern Railway employee will be back at the national scene after a decade.
“Have plans to race in 100m,” she told HT. She didn’t reveal her future plans, but said she had been competing in local competitions in recent past. Last year, the Calcutta High Court cleared her of rape charges levelled by her colleague. She was subjected to gender test too.
Pramanik was a member of the national 4x400m relay team that won silver at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.