K.P. Mohan

Seema, Shobha among contenders for Beijing slots

MADURAI: In what is being billed as the final selection trials for the Beijing Olympics, the Velammal 48th National inter-State athletics championships, beginning here on Sunday, promises to provide high calibre fare.

There is invariably a noticeable gap between promise and reality in Indian athletics. Post-Athens Olympics, it looks rather famished, no matter the encouraging projections from time to time.

An Olympic year, however, gives an added impetus to the athletes to aim for hitherto unconquered heights and a few national records accrue in the process.

Many missing

As was feared, not many athletes have qualified for the Olympics.

There should be an all-out attempt here to add to the list of seven qualifiers, though, rather disappointingly, all the top-rung middle and long distance runners will be missing from this meet, away as they are in England, trying to clock better times towards qualification in cooler climes.

From among the leading Indian athletes who are competing here, the spotlight will be on long jumper Anju George, but it will be the front-runners for Beijing qualification who should remain in focus through the next four days.

Unfortunately, there are not many in that category.

Discus thrower Seema Antil is yet to qualify. With Krishna Poonia having reached beyond 63 metres, Seema will have to aim for at least 61 metres, the ‘A’ standard, in order to make it.

Not encouraging

Seema’s current form has not been very encouraging. She had a 58.12 in Koncha-Zaspa, near Kiev, last month.

“I will be aiming for 61, but in competition I am not able to reproduce the form I show during training,” said Seema on Saturday.

Also in a not-so-promising form has been heptathlete J. J. Shobha. She reportedly gave up halfway through a competition in Yalta recently after a none-too-impressive mark till then.

The heptathlon ‘B’ standard is a gettable 5800 points. Susmita Singha Roy has that, but will be doubtful should Shobha cross her tally of 5866 points achieved in Bhopal.

Susmita should then be looking for the ’A’ norm of 6000 points here. Coach Kuntal Roy was also looking ahead on those lines on the eve of the meet.

Realistically, there are no other contenders for the Beijing berths, though surprises cannot be ruled out.

Joseph Abraham was looking good at one point of time last season in the 400m hurdles, eventually clocking 49.51 in the World championships and that happened to be just one-hundredth of a second short of the qualification mark.

On Saturday evening, Abraham looked to have given up hope of getting there.

Another man who might have been in with a chance in the hurdles, Kuldev Singh, was reportedly injured.

The fight for places in the women’s 4x400m relay team should intensify here.

M. R. Poovamma and Sini Jose could be facing the axe. Satti Geetha could be in contention.

Coaches confident

Incidentally, coaches who were in Ukraine, clarified that the Indian team had clocked 3:30.45 in Yalta (not 3:34.50 as reported in these columns on June 9) and they were confident of the quartet timing 3:29 soon.

It is a pity that this meet has clashed with the Asian Junior championships in Jakarta.

Someone as talented as Tintu Luka could have shown her prowess among senior company had this not happened.

To stage a comeback in the sprints after a season’s gap will be national record holder Anil Kumar while Delhi’s Amit Khanna is also coming back after a longer gap.

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