The athletes around the world are competing; some are fine-tuning themselves for the Olympics and others are straining to gain a qualification standard for the London Games.
The Indian athletes, at least a majority of them from among the 30-odd ‘core probables', are still training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres in the heat of Patiala (43-45 degrees Celsius) and the cooler clime of Bangalore, in the hope of attaining Olympic norms. So far, only 13 Indian athletes have made the grade.
An Asian Games champion like Joseph Abraham has not had the opportunity of competing abroad after having come close to the Olympic standard at the Federation Cup meet at Patiala last April, clocking 49.98s as against the criterion of 49.80s in the 400m hurdles.
For Abraham or any other athlete with Olympic aspirations the Fed Cup in April was the last domestic meet. The next and the last chance at home will come in the inter-State meet in Hyderabad from June 23 to 26, a gap of two months in an Olympic year!
Contrast this with China's domestic calendar for the year. It has had four National Grand Prix meets indoors this year, one National throws meet, an Asian indoors meet, two relay competitions and four outdoor National GP meets apart from road and walk competitions.
Some of the Indian athletes were fortunate to compete in the three-leg Asian Grand Prix circuit in Thailand in May. No one made the Olympic grade, though, from that series.
The closest that any one came to a standard was in the men's 400 metres where P. Kunhumohammed clocked 46.14s at Kanchanaburi on May 11 against the norm of 45.90s.
Timely planning and proposals by the federation could have avoided the kind of hassles that Abraham and many others are facing in arranging for suitable competitions abroad.
The longer relay teams in both sections have not competed since the Asian GP series.
“Please give us a competition,” said one of the athletes on phone from Patiala on Monday.
The men's 4x400m relay team has to target two timings below 3:02.73 which is what the 16th best team has by current (June 5) listings in the IAAF qualification charts. Its best so far has been 3:07.82. The top 16 teams will go through to London.
Someone like 800m runner Tintu Luka, who has qualified for the Olympics, finds that entries to competitions are hard to get and her competitive build-up in her Olympic preparation is in disarray.
Poor planning has left Tintu in suspense about her next competition.
“The probables will be exposed to international competitions which will form part of their schedule of training and exposure,” says the OPEX London 2012 website of the ministry.
In reality, the OPEX set-up waits for piecemeal proposals from the federation. It never had a long-term plan including competitions in 2012 in place.
Those who are based abroad are lucky since they had been sanctioned substantial finances from the National Sports Development Fund to train and compete abroad.
Discus throwers Vikas Gowda, Krishna Poonia and Seema Antil are in the US and shot putter Om Prakash Singh is in Hungary. They have qualified for the Olympics.
Long jumper/triple jumper Mayookha Johny is in Germany while middle and long distance runners Kavita Raut, Preeja Sreedharan, Sudha Singh and O.P. Jaisha are in Italy. Only Sudha (3000m steeplechase) from the Italian batch has qualified.
Three days ago, triple jumper Renjith Maheswary and long jumper Ankit Sharma (latter yet to qualify), left for Italy for a training-cum-competition stint in preparation for the Olympics.
Some of the leading athletes including the relay teams will get a last chance in the Asian All-Star meet in Almaty on June 30 and July 1.
The relay qualification deadline is July 2 while that for individual qualification is July 8.