World Athletics Meet: Covid, dope test failure cast shadow over India’s prospects

Published on Jul 29, 2022 12:03 AM IST

In yet another blow to sport, a male athlete has been dropped from the Indian squad after testing positive for banned substances before the upcoming Junior World Championships, scheduled to take place from August 1 to 6 in Cali, Colombia

Meerut’s Rupal Chaudhary in action. (HT File Photo)
Meerut’s Rupal Chaudhary in action. (HT File Photo)
By, Lucknow

In yet another blow to sport, a male athlete has been dropped from the Indian squad after testing positive for banned substances before the upcoming Junior World Championships, scheduled to take place from August 1 to 6 in Cali, Colombia. Besides him, two other Indians, a male race-walker and a woman sprinter, too have been ruled out for the event after testing Corona positive.

Only last week, two senior Indian athletes, including Dhanalakshmi Sekar, the women’s 100m and 4x100m relay specialist, and triple jumper Aishwarya Babu had failed dope tests and were dropped from the Commonwealth Games-bound Indian squad.

A source in the Athletics Federation of India said the Covid positive reports of the two athletes came only on Thursday afternoon whereas the dope test report of the male long jumper surfaced only two days ago.

“It’s quite unfortunate but true that one of the male athletes has failed a dope test and has subsequently been dropped from the squad whereas two other athletes have been tested corona positive,” said an AFI official on condition of anonymity on Thursday.

India’s prospects at this year’s Junior World Championship are already in trouble with ace long jumper Shaili Singh being ruled out for the event after sustaining a toe injury during a training session a few weeks ago. But away from all this, team’s chief coach Kamal Ali Khan is upbeat about India’s much-better show this time.

“We would certainly be missing Shaili at Cali as she was one of the best medal prospects this time, but still we are confident of winning more medals than the last edition,” Khan said minutes before the team’s departure for Colombia on Thursday.

During 35 years of junior world athletics championships, India could only win two gold medals, both by javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and sprinter Hima Das, and with seven medals, including two golds, two silvers and three bronzes, India shares 51st place with Serbia among 109 nations.

Chopra won the gold in the 2016 meet in Poland after throwing an iron spear to a record distance of 86.48 metres, whereas Das won the silver in the 400m dash in Finland in 2018, clocking 51.46 seconds.

Last year, India won three medals at the post-pandemic meet in Nairobi, Kenya, including two silvers and a bronze. Shaili Singh and race-walker Amit won silver medals, while the mixed 4x400m relay team took bronze.

“This year, we’re also boasting strong relay teams, including mixed relays and women’s relays. Undoubtedly, there will be tough competition, but I’m confident enough to see the medal tally rise this time,” said Khan, who has been coaching the junior team since 2018.

Khan, a member of India’s men’s relay team at the 1982 Asian Games, credits Neeraj Chopra with lifting the spirits of junior athletes. “Chopra’s rise in athletics is a phenomenon, and he has been a major inspiration for every athlete of the new generation,” he said, adding, “He (Chopra) started with juniors and went on to win gold at the Olympics and a silver medal at the World Championship.”

He, however, said that even in the 2021 edition of the Junior Worlds at Nairobi, Indians had a fine run at the meet. “Though we won three medals, two of our athletes finished fourth, whereas 7-8 athletes were in the finals of different disciplines. I believe that our performance was up to the mark.”

He also said that the Athletics Federation of India’s programme at the grassroot level has been producing good results for the country. “Junior athletics is our base and most of our seniors have come from the junior level, including Chopra” said Khan, who also happens to be the academic in-charge at the NIS Patiala. The AIFF has named a 33-member squad, including 15 women, for the event.

SQUAD

Men’s: Suraj Alagar Raja (4x400m relay); Graceson Amalda (110m Hurdles); Lalu Bhoi (long jump); Rihan Choudhary (4x400m relay); Kapil (4x400m relay); Aryan Kashyapa (400m hurdles); Aman Khokhar (100m); Hardeep Kumar (400m hurdles, 4x400m relay); Vivek Kumar (javelin throw); Krishik Manjunatha (110m hurdles); Deepak Rohilla (4x400m relay); Sanyam Sanjay (shot put- 6kg); Sawan (shot put- 6kg); Pradeep Senthilkumar (800m); Barath Sridhar (400m, 4x 400m relay); Selva Thirumaran (triple jump); Arjun Waskale (800m, 1500m); Rohitkumar Yadav (10 km race walk).

Women’s: Nandini Agasara (100m hurdles); Ashakiran Barla (800m); Unnathi Bolland (100m hurdles); Priya Mohan (200m, 400m, 4x400m relay); Supriti Kachhap (5000m); Anushka Kumbhar (4x400m relay); Rajitha Kunja (4x400m relay); Avantika Narale (100m); Mansi Negi (10 km race walk); Rachana (10 km race walk); Rupal (400m, 4x400m relay); Laxita Sandilea (800m); Sudeshna Shivankar (100m, 200m); Simmy (400m, 4x400m relay); Summy (4x 400m relay).

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sharad Deep is a versatile sports journalist, who loves writing on cricket and Olympic sport. He has played cricket at the university level and has been writing for Hindustan Times since 1997.

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