There is always expectancy whenever a new season begins. With the Commonwealth Games a little over five months away, the focus in the Federation Cup starting here on Saturday, and through much of this season, will be on reaching the levels needed to make a mark in the multi-discipline Games.
Then, there will be the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, in November. Both are going to be tough for the Indian athletes who have never lived up to their “home potential” in big meets abroad.
This time, with the Commonwealth Games being held at home, in ‘friendly environs', there is hope for a far better show than any time in the recent past.
The first step towards achieving that goal will be taken in this four-day meet. With the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) having targeted the longer relays in both sections as events in which India has medal potential, there should be a good fight in both the 400 metres to gain places in the relay teams.
Though the final selection will only come much later, the way the athletes perform from now on will be crucial in assessing their true potential and current form.
In the men's 400 metres, the main actors should remain the same as last season, with Bibin Mathew and Shakeh Mortaja expected to battle it out for top honours.
In the women's quarter mile, there could be a change in the familiar script, with Sini Jose and A.C. Ashwini trying to emerge out of the shadows of Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur and Chitra Soman.
There was no certainty of many of the top-rung athletes competing here even though the AFI has stated that it would be mandatory for all the core probables for the Games.
The AFI has also kept its medal chances on men's triple jump, shot put, discus and javelin and the women's discus and heptathlon, apart from the relays.
Renjith Maheswary, after regaining some of his old touch last year, did not end up with a medal in the Asian championships in Guangzhou. He had a 16.68 and 16.73 in back to back competitions last October but had to settle for the fourth place in the Asian meet with 16.48 metres.
There are too many 17-metre jumpers in the Commonwealth, with World champion Phillips Idowu of England also in that midst, for anyone to confidently talk in terms of a medal for Renjith. He will need to perform far better than his National record of 17.04m achieved in Guwahati in 2007 if he has to win one.
Asian shot put champion Om Prakash is currently training in the U.S. That leaves the stage for the likes of Satyendra Kumar Singh and Saurabh Vij to make their mark in an event in which India can have a shy at a medal in the Commonwealth Games.
The women's discus is being touted as a multiple-medal prospect for India at the CWG. With Krishna Poonia in the U.S, and Harwant Kaur also abroad, only Seema Antil, among the top-notchers, could be expected to compete here.
Antil has not been in great form or good health during the past two seasons and it would be too early to expect her to touch top level.
Keywords: Federation Cup