The seventh National Youth (under-18) athletics championship, organised for the second year in succession by the Tamil Nadu Athletics Association, kicks off at the super fast synthetic track at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

The three-day meet has attracted 306 athletes (197 boys and 109 girls) from 17 States across the country. Despite the sweltering heat, the athletes, most of them first timers to this part of the region, promise to put up a memorable show.

The championship has its own significance. It will serve as the selection trials for those young aspirants who wish to gain a ticket to Singapore for the continental test next month and the inaugural edition of the Youth Olympic Games in the same city from August 15.

The short-listed probables at the national youth camp in Bhopal will also form the line-up as this will be their final assessment trial before departing to Singapore.

Namita Kabat, the half-miler from Jharkhand who clinched gold in last year's Asian Youth Games in Singapore, will be the star attraction of the meet. Uttar Pradesh's Sangeeta Yadav is expected to give Kabat a run for her money.

Thrower Gunasundari and hurdler Mervin, both Indian campers, will lead the challenge for host Tamil Nadu.

The young Salauddin, son of former national triple jumper Mohammed Nizammuddin, is also here with dreams of making it big in the meets to come.

“Actually, I am yet to give him some work-out,” said Nizam when asked about his son's chances. But those curious onlookers who saw Salauddin do the practice jumps on Thursday were quite convinced about his talent and the winning spirit in his gene.

“Our youth team looks pretty strong,” said J.S. Bhatia, coach in-charge for the middle and long distance runners for the Commonwealth Games.

He sounded positive about his wards' chances, particularly the middle and long distance runners and throwers, in the forthcoming Youth Olympics.

“They are showing signs of promise. It is just that we need to shape them with some systematic planning and training. Don't be surprised if they come back with medals from the big games.”

He also had words of praise for ‘Payyoli Express' P.T. Usha's trainees Angel Mathew (800m), Anju Varghese (400m) and Nikhila Joseph (400m). “They are a talented bunch as well.”

The championship will see an early start but the official opening ceremony is scheduled for the evening followed by the events.

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