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Should Indian athletes be competing in low-quality meets?

KOCHI:As Dutee Chand raced to the women’s 100m gold at the recent Taiwan Athletics Open, the host’s silver medallist, Liao Ching, appeared to be nearly three steps behind.

Kerala's Anilda Thomas (256) winning the women's 400m event in the 20th Federation Cup athletics championship at the Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

And the 200m, the next day, was an Indian affair with Dutee, Srabani Nanda and H.M. Jyothi sweeping the medals.

India may have finished with a seemingly rich haul at the Taiwan Open in Taoyuan City, but questions are now being raised about the need to send athletes to such low-quality meets.

Better in Fed Cup
A quick comparison of the Indian performances at the Taiwan Open and the recent Federation Cup shows that they were much superior in all events, except men’s discus, in the New Delhi meet.

The two-day Taiwan Open began a day after the IAAF World Challenge meet in Beijing, where the Indian women’s 4x100m relay team, anchored by Dutee Chand, broke the national record. And this meant that the Indian athletes landed in Taoyuan City just a few hours before their events, weary and worn-out after going all-out in Beijing.

It would have been much better had the Athletics Federation of India hosted another championship or a third Indian Grand Prix, as had been planned earlier, after a decent break after the first two, instead of sending the athletes to such second or third-grade meets abroad.

The Indian sprinters will now have another chance to make the Rio grade next month.

“They will go to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in June,” C.K. Valson, AFI secretary, told The Hindu. The first meet is likely to start on June 18.

Valson also said that the big bunch of women’s 4x400m relay runners, who are currently training in Spala in central Poland, will be competing in a few meets in Europe next month and try to qualify for Rio. “Most of them will be peaking only after June. They are now in the ‘loading’ phase,” he said.

Valson also revealed that Kerala’s Anilda Thomas, the Federation Cup champion, and Karnataka’s Asian Games bronze medallist, M.R. Poovamma, have been continuing their impressive form in Poland.

“Anilda and Poovamma are trying to qualify in the individual 400m too. They came up with impressive performances in a local meet… of course, they are not official timings,” he said. He said Anilda, Poovamma and Tintu could be in the main team in 4x400m relay, and that the fourth member would be picked depending on performance.

Mayookha recovering
Valson said long and triple jumper Mayookha Johny, who suffered an ankle injury in the Federation Cup, is recovering well and that she has gained entry for meets in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. “Mayookha is recovering from her injury. She is under treatment in Delhi and she should be back soon. The jumps coach says that she is almost fit.”