Around 2,000 athletes from over 200 countries will be vying for 49 world titles when the biannual World Athletics Championships kick off in Doha on 27 September. And among those will be 27 Indians, looking to end the country’s 16-year-long medal drought at the prestigious event.
Long jumper Anju Bobby George won India’s first and only medal at the Worlds – a bronze in the 2013 edition. In the last edition in London in 2017, only one Indian made it to the finals (Davinder Singh Kang in men's javelin) while the race walkers and marathoners produced disappointing performances.
Though the chances of India bagging that elusive podium finish are looking bleak with a few big names missing the championships this year, the three 4x400m relay teams will look to at least book a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics courtesy a top-eight finish.
Hima Das, Neeraj Chopra: Big Names Missing
India enter the World Athletics Championship without two of their biggest stars – the injured javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and sprinter Hima Das.
Though Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Neeraj was always doubtful having undergone an elbow surgery in May, Asian Games gold medallist Hima had been training in Europe for the last four months and was expected to be named in the Indian contingent.
However, a back injury that had been nagging the 19-year-old since the conclusion of the Asian Games last year ruled her out of the upcoming Worlds. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) received a lot of flak for her injury management.
India’s Best Bets
It is difficult to predict who among the Indians will reach the final though the AFI is pinning its hopes in the three 4x400m relays, particularly the mixed 4x400m which is making a debut in the World Championships.
National record holder Muhammed Anas has not been fielded in his main event – 400m – though he had breached the World Championships qualification mark, in order to boost the men's 4x400m relay team's chances of making the finals.
Among other athletes, young long jumper M Sreeshankar, metric mile runner Jinson Johnson and shot putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor will have to better their best if they want to reach the finals.
M Sreeshankar will start India's campaign in the qualification round of the men's long jump on the opening day on Friday.
The automatic qualification mark for the finals has been set at 8.15 m though jumpers below this mark can also advance if enough athletes do not cross the cut-off distance to make the 12 finalists.
The 20-year-old Kerala athlete has gone beyond 8.15 m just once in his career -- 8.20m last year in the National Open -- though officials described it as a freak jump. He has a best of 8.00 m this year and that has placed him second last in terms of the season's best among the 27 jumpers who will start the qualification round.
All Eyes on Dutee Chand
A last-minute addition to the Indian contingent, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand said she’s hoping to make the 100 m finals.
The 23-year-old could not touch the Doha World Championships qualification mark of 11.24 seconds but her personal best effort of 11.26 seconds, which is also the national record, during the Asian Championships in Doha in April, ensured that she was among the maximum target number of competitors for the event.
Dutee, who these days has been training at night similar to her competition schedule in Doha, said she is determined to make amends of her disappointing performance in the last edition of the event in 2017 at London.
In the 2017 London World Championships, Dutee ran a disappointing 12.07 second in the heats and failed to reach the semifinals.
Full List of Indians Competing in World Athletics Championships
- Women’s Individual Events
100m: Dutee Chand
200m: Archana Suseentran
400m: Anjali Devi
1,500m: PU Chitra
Javelin Throw: Annu Rani
- Men’s Individual Events
Marathon: Gopi Thonakal
400m hurdles: Dharun Ayyasamy, MP Jabir
1,500m: Jinson Johnson
20km Race Walk: KT Irfan, Devender Singh
3,000m Steeplechase: Avinash Sable
Javelin Throw: Shivpal Singh
Long Jump: Sreeshankar Murali
Shot Put: Tejinder Singh Toor
- Relay Races
4x400m Women’s Relay
4x400m Men’s Relay
4x400m Mixed Team Relay
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