A. Vinod

Top stars will be absent

KOCHI: After the less than impressive start to the new season in Ranchi earlier this month, the scene of athletic activity now moves to this commercial hub of Kerala, as the 50th National Open meet is all set to get underway at the Maharaja's stadium on Saturday.

And if one thought of a better turnout than the Federation Cup, marked by absenteeism, the second meet too is likely to be hit hard as the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has despatched the top eight of the women's 400m on a training trip to Ukraine.

Consequently, missing the meet would be Sini Jose, the double gold medallist in Ranchi, Manjit Kaur, Mandeep Kaur, Chitra K. Soman and M.R. Poovamma

Their absence could be a terrible setback to P.T. Usha's prodigy, Tintu Luka, who is testing her strength in the 400m besides her pet event, the 800m. Tintu had given the Ranchi meet a miss to attend to University examinations.

Athletes' dilemma

Incredible as it would seem, the country's top athletes are giving a miss to the nation's premier domestic meet.

Yet, the fact of the matter is simple: the athletes, despite having been under rigorous training over the past couple of years, are still caught on the tip of a double-edged sword — whether to go all out to earn the national colours for the Commonwealth Games in October or to adopt a wait-and-watch approach and take a fling at a possible medal at the Asian Games in China in November.

There is indeed credence to such a theory as anyone with even a bit of knowledge would know what medal prospects our top athletes hold at the Commonwealth Games, in a face-off with the best in the world.

The Asian Games undoubtedly is a different cup of tea as the country's top track and field specialists stand some chance. While the logic is simple, the larger question is that of our athletes failing to take part in an event into which a lot of money has been poured in.

Besides the quartermile, the women's long distance is also certain to miss its usual glamour with both Kavita Raut and Preeja Sreedharan opting out of the 5000m — the first final of the meet — to concentrate on the more gruelling 25-lapper.

The discus events, like in Ranchi, would also be a one-horse race with only Seema Antil's name figuring in the confirmed list of participants, while that of Harwant Kaur and Krishna Poonia continues on the missing list, being away on training.

Among men, the 400m is likely to feature Ranchi winner Praveen Kumar, Bibin Mathew and Shakeh Mortaja while the 400m hurdles will have National record holder Joseph Abraham , who has adjusted his striding pattern after being pulled up for a technical infringement last year.

This section also does have its quota of absentees, the notable being C. Hamza and Surendra Singh yet to recover fully from injuries.

While the KAA has put its best forward to make the athletes' stay enjoyable, what still is a great worry is the harsh weather prevailing in the city.

The prestigious event returns to Kerala, after being held here in 2008.

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