The Yuba Bharati Krirangan had to wait for 11 years to host the Open National Athletics Championships. And it came here after Ranchi opted out citing organisational problems. But then the timing of one of the most prestigious athletics meets will see quite a few big names opting out.
The final start list was not out till late on Friday evening and so there was no official confirmation as to those who will stay away. Sources said only two of the five athletes who have achieved London Olympics berths — long jumper and triple jumper Mayookha Johny and shotputter Om Prakash Singh — will be here.Discus throwers Vikas Gowda and Krishna Poonia have been allowed to skip this meet because they are training in the USA. And PT Usha confirmed that her ward Tintu Luka (800m) was planning to take time off. "The Asian Championships and the World Championships are just over and so most of the athletes will devote more time in training to peak in time for the London Games," said Dronacharya award winning coach Kuntal Roy. That, and the fact that his ward, heptathlete Sushmita Singha Roy, is recovering from a knee injury would mean the women’s seven-discipline event would have a depleted field.
CK Valson, AFI technical committee member, though said there would be huge participation here because those skipping this would not be able to attend the national camp.
Focus on Sudha
All eyes will be on Guangzhou Asian Games steeplechase gold medal winner Sudha Singh for whom this meet comes as a great chance to clinch a London berth.
"She is in good form and won silver in Kobe (Asian Championships). And if it does not rain she could do it here," said JS Bhatia, India's long and middle-distance coach.
Using this competition to get back into the limelight will be distance-runners Preeja Sridharan and Kavita Rout. Both take the track on Saturday morning for the 10000m final.
"Traditionally, this track has helped long distance runners. But that was some time back. Now that track is not in good shape and I am not sure whether athletes will get the desired spring from it," Bhatia added.
The track here was laid in 1987 and is now almost a decade past its sell-by date. There are holes in it and patches have come off. During the Federation Cup in 2007, starting blocks for the 100m had to be held from behind so that they did not move when the sprinters took off. Surprisingly, the newly laid synthetic track at the SAI Eastern Centre just 2km away from the venue was not picked for the meet because of "logistical" problems.