China would be making a serious attempt to regain the pole position from Japan

The 20th Asian athletics championships get underway at the Shiv Chhattrapati stadium, Balewadi, on Wednesday.

China, the continental giant, which was displaced from the top after a long reign by Japan at Kobe two years ago, would be making a serious attempt to regain the pole position.

The Chinese after getting into the AAA in 1979 had since then been a dominant force getting to the top for the first time in 1983 (at Kuwait City) and then had consistently made it a competition making them versus the rest until the Japanese knocked them off the pedestal in Kobe.

Major blow

In the given circumstances, it would be of immense interest to see how the struggle for supremacy between the Chinese and the Japanese shape up through the next five days as much as how many among the 13 defending champions would be able to do an encore in their respective events. The figure would have been 14 but for the last minute withdrawal of Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, citing a back injury. The last minute pull-out of the 21-year-old Qatari is certainly a major blow to the championships.

Naturally, the focus beyond the Chinese and the Japanese would be also on those hailing from West Asia particularly Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, given the strides that these countries have made with the help of the ‘imports’ from African nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco.

Stars of the meet

Among athletes of the men’s section, there could be a lot of followers here for the likes of China’s Su Bingtian (100m) , Xue Changrui (pole vault) and Chang Ming Huang (shot put) alongside Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Al-Masrahi (400m), Japan’s Yuichi Kobayashi (200m), Tsuyoshi Takeda (3000m steeple chase), Watani Yazawa (110m hurdles), Yasuhiro Fueki (400m hurdles), Takashi Eto (high jump), Kazakhstan’s Konstantin Safronov (long jump), Roman Valiyev (triple jump), Dmitriy Karpov (decathlon), Qatar’s Abdul Rahman Masaeb Bala (800m) and Mohammed Al Garni (1500m), Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazara (hammer) and Uzbekistan’s Ivan Zaystev (Javelin).

Likewise, in the women’s section too there are quite a few athletes who will demand attention with their performances in the track and field. And this would include Wei Yongli (100m), Wang Chungu (400m), Li Ling (pole vault), Wang Zheng (hammer), Liu Xiangrong (shot put), Su Xinyue (discus) Li Lingwei (javelin) — all from China and the Japan’s Chisato Fukushima (200m), Ayumi Hagiwara (10000m), Hitomi Shimura (100m hurdles), Satomi Kubokara (400m hurdles) and Kazakhstan’s Marina Aitova (high jump).

With over 570 athletes from all countries barring Bhutan and Myanmar in the fray, the championships are already on the record books as the biggest Asian meet ever and the winners of the various events will gain direct entry into the World championships to be held in Moscow next month.