With the Asian Games in Hangzhou just two months away, the World University Games which begin at Chengdu on Friday will be closely watched. And with nearly 10,000 athletes competing, it will be a sort of test event before this September’s Asiad.
China had suffered a huge and long Covid lockdown earlier but officials of the Indian team, who are now in Chengdu, have not noticed any worry or restrictions so far.
“No mask or any sort of restriction. We are free to travel anywhere,” Binu George Varghese, the contingent manager of the Indian athletics team, told The Hindu from Chengdu on Thursday.
“And China has made all the public transport free for the participants.”
India has sent 227 athletes (and 60 officials) and the list includes stars like Asian sprint hurdles champion Jyothi Yarraji, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, Olympians Manu Bhaker, Elavenil Valarivan (both shooting) and Srihari Nataraj (swimming).
Multple-round lessons for Jyothi
“The Universiade is not her main focus so anything good there is a bonus but we wanted her to have a competition with rounds prior to the World Championships (Budapest, August) and Asian Games (Hangzhou, September),” said James Hillier, Jyothi’s coach at the Reliance Foundation.
The athletics list also includes Asian championship 20km walk silver medallist Priyanka Goswami, javelin thrower Vikrant Malik, who produced an impressive 81.20m effort at the North East Zone varsities meet in Bhubaneswar last December but who could manage just 66.82m the recent inter-State Nationals, star sprinter Amlan Borgohain and Under-20 Asian 1500m gold medallist Laxita Sandilea.
Tejaswin, the Asian Championships’ decathlon bronze medallist who will be doing the high jump in Chengdu, and Manu Bhaker will be India’s flag-bearers at Friday’s opening ceremony.
Tejaswin’s name did not figure in the entry list, but Binu George confirmed that the issue has been sorted out.
Setback for wushu team
The Indian contingent would have been much bigger, but the Government pulled out the eight-member wushu team at the last minute over visa issues.
“Three wushu ‘players’ of Arunachal Pradesh were ‘denied’ visa and given stapled visa by China at the last moment. So the Government withdrew the entire wushu team,” said Gaganendu Dash, the head of the Indian delegation in Chengdu.
On the positive side, India has sent its men’s and women’s volleyball teams for the Games. Badminton, tennis, table tennis, archery, fencing, and judo are among the other events where Indians will be in action.
The Games officially begin on Friday, but a few qualification rounds of archery were gone through on Thursday.