Stirring duels on the cards
Tuesday 13, Sep 2011

The 51st National Open athletics championship, which opens at the Salt Lake Stadium and SAI Complex here on Saturday, is expected to provide some exhilarating contests. The four-day blue riband event of Indian athletics calendar will provide an opportunity to a number of hopefuls to clinch berths to the London Olympics. Despite the humid and rainy weather being not very conducive to support athletes in their efforts to excel on the track and field events, the National Open, nevertheless, will bring out the best among the different units of the Athletic Federation of India (AFI). The worn out track will hamper rather than enhance the performances feel the experts and coaches. This might prove to be the biggest hurdle in all the track-based events. Traditionally, this synthetic track has produced more records in jumps. But one race that was an exception was when Paramjeet Singh of Police obliterated then Milkha Singh's long standing 400m record in a searing run in 1998. Noted athletes A number of noted athletes are in the fray to make this championship a competitive one. Among the five who have already qualified for the London Olympics, only two are here — Mayookha Johny in women's triple jump and Om Prakash Singh in men's shot put. Discus expert Vikas Gowda and walker Gurmeet Singh are not entered as per the information available here. Krishna Poonia too will be missed because she is also training abroad. Tintu Luka, pupil of P.T. Usha, is awaited but there is no news yet on her availability. Om Prakash is likely to be the cynosure of all eyes. The burly ONGC athlete improved his previous best of 20.04 with 20.07m in Hungary recently. If he carries the same form to Kolkata, Bahadur Singh Sagoo's meet mark of 19.59m will be in danger of getting erased. There are many stirring duels expected to punctuate the four-day meet. One of the most anticipated clashes is in the women's long distance where Preeja Sreedharan of Railways and Kavita Rout of ONGC face off. Though coach J.S. Bhatia thinks the two are not in the best of form, they have the capability to raise the competition because of personal rivalry. Bhatia thinks steeplechaser Sudha Singh is in red hot form. He feels if conditions help her she might even achieve the B standard in Olympic qualifying mark. But then this lanky Railway athlete has no one good enough to push her. She has to be at her best motivational level to achieve this feat. Highly talented triple jumper, Renjith Maheswary, is another athlete who is likely to make a big impact. Ghamanda Ram of ONGC in the two lap race, O.P. Jaisa of Railways in the metric mile will also enliven the proceedings. Like previous National Open meets, this one too is expected throw up some surprises. Railways will go all out to retain the title it had won last year. But the number of star athletes ONGC has in its rank will certainly enable the oil major to make a terrific impact. Police and Services will also chip in to make the four-day meet a memorable one.

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