Inaugural national U-23 athletics to bring focus on a sport riding high
- Neeraj Chopra’s Tokyo Olympics javelin victory has raised hopes of Indian athletics finding fresh talent with major events scheduled in 2022.
The celebrations for Tokyo Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, India’s first athletics medallist at the Games, is tapering off. The second national meet since the high in Japan will help bring focus on the next generation of talent.
Some of India’s best young athletes will be in action at the inaugural National Under-23 Athletics Championships at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here from Monday. Among the prominent names will be race walker Amit Khatri, who won silver at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi recently, triple jumper Praveen Chithravel, long jumper Jeswin Aldrin and Delhi sprinter Taranjeet Kaur.
Many of them impressed at the Junior Federation Cup in Bhopal in January and this competition will provide a tougher test. As many as 619 athletes, including 208 women, will compete.
Khatri, who competed in the 10km event in Kenya, is excited to face his first competition in 20km. “It will be a new experience and a big test for me. There are so many major events lined up next year, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and I want to prepare for them. The competition here will give me an indication where I stand,” said Khatri. 42:17.94
“Our first aim is the National Race Walk Championships early next year,” says Khatri’s coach Chandan Singh, who won the 20km event at the Open nationals in Warangal recently. “It is twice the distance and the body needs to be prepared accordingly. Our target is 1 hour, 28mins so that he can compete at the national meet in February. I don’t want him to take any pressure as it is his first race in 20km. The goal is the world championships next year (Eugene, US) and then the 2024 Paris Olympics. We need to start preparing now.” Khatri clocked 42:17.94 in the 10km in Nairobi.
In triple jump, 20-year-old Chithravel from Tamil Nadu, a Youth Olympics finalist in 2018, has been on a high this season. At the Warangal meet, he won gold at 16.88m, an effort only behind that of Renjit Maheswary (17.30m) and Arpinder Singh (17.17m) in the all-time India list. He also won the Federation Cup in Patiala (16.39m) earlier this year.
In long jump, Aldrin has been taking big strides, clearing 7.97m at the South Zone junior championships. The Junior Federation Cup winner took silver at the open nationals (7.67m). In the Federation Cup in Patiala, he jumped 7.62m in the qualifying stage.
Taranjeet Kaur won the 100m (11.50sec) at Warangal and came second in 200m (23.64sec), behind Archana Suseendran (23.58sec). She won the sprint double (100m-11.70s, 200m-24.11) at the Junior Federation Cup (U20) in Bhopal.
The focus will also be on Delhi’s KM Chanda, who finished second to Harmilan Kaur Bains in the women’s 800m and 1500m in Warangal, and Tamil Nadu sprinter Nithin Balakumar in men's 200m. Nithin won silver at the Open nationals, clocking 21.06s to finish behind Amlan Borgohain (20.75s). He had won the National Inter-State meet (21.20) earlier this year.