Top Stars Missing, Indian Athletics Set With ‘Next Gen’ for CWG

Thirty-seven is the total number of athletes India could have sent to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. However, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has chosen to send just 31.

The reigning 400-metre Asian Champion Nirmala Sheoran is actually “not traceable” according to the Federation and will therefore also not be going to the games. And Vikas Gowda, India’s only gold medalist in athletics at the 2014 CWG, has been denied a spot by the AFI because he refused to come down to India from his training facilities in America to compete in the qualifying events. This, even though his season best throw of 62.35 metres is almost an entire metre better than the CWG qualification mark!

So then, who is representing India in athletics at the Gold Coast? A lot of medal favourites, from the “next gen” of Indian athletics. Here are a few:

1. Neeraj Chopra

Neeraj became the first Indian to break a world record in athletics when he threw a massive 86.48 metres in the javelin throw event at the 2016 World U-20 Championships – a junior world record. He is now 20 and India’s best chance for a gold medal in athletics at the Gold Coast. At the Federation Cup in Patiala this March, he threw 85.94 metres, his second-best throw to date and the best throw among his CWG competitors this April.

In fact, the gold medal in javelin at the 2014 Games was won by a throw of 83.87 metres – almost an entire 3 metres less than Neeraj’s personal best!

2. Tejaswin Shankar

The 19-year-old high jumper broke into the scene in 2016 when, just at the age of 17, he broke a 12-year-old men’s national high jump record at a junior meet, with a jump of 2.26 metres. A student of the Kansas State University now, Tejaswin bettered his national record this year with a jump of 2.28 metres in Patiala in March, which is also this year’s best jump among his competitors at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

3. Seema Punia

From the first-timers to a veteran, 2014 Glasgow Games’ silver medallist Seema Punia may be 34 now, but her eyes are still focused on the podium. She pulled off her best throw in 2 years at the Federation Cup this March to book her berth. The 61.05-metre throw is the second best this year among her competitors at the Gold Coast.

4. Arpinder Singh

Arpinder is the last of India’s medallists in Glasgow. He won a bronze 4 years back with a jump of 16.63 metres, which was still nowhere close to his personal best of 17.17.

The 25-year-old has not managed to touch the 17-metre mark in a while but his 16.61 this March is the second-best jump this year among Commonwealth nations.

But will it be good enough to finish on the podium once again? Gold Coast abhi door nahi.

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(Camera by Shiv Kumar Maurya, Edited by Mod Irshad Alam)

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