Anju, Vikas Gowda to spearhead Indian challenge

Anju has had very limited success this season.She will cross swords with home favourite Bronwyn Thompson.Gowda came into the limelight two years ago. Anju has had very limited success this season.She will cross swords with home favourite Bronwyn Thompson.Gowda came into the limelight two years ago.

Melbourne: Star long jumper Anju Bobby George and U.S.-based discus thrower Vikas Gowda will spearhead the Indian challenge in the high-voltage field as the blue riband event, the athletic competition, of the 18th Commonwealth Games begins here on Sunday.

Indian athletics has much at stake in these Games. A good showing will work wonders for the morale of the athletes who have been wary of WADA testers.

In theory, each event entered by the Indian athletics team should provide a medal to the country. In reality, it may come down to two or three at best.

Our medal hopes

Long jumper Anju George, the only Indian athlete to have won a senior World championship medal, Vikas Gowda and any one or two from the women's discus trio of Seema Antil, Harwant Kaur and Krishna Poonia could emerge with a medal from the Games here.

Obviously all eyes will be on Anju George. Ranked fifth in the world, having just slipped a rung following her unhappy sojourn to Moscow for the World indoor championships, the lanky Chennai based jumper has the unenviable task of living up to her stature and the expectations of a medal-hungry country.

Anju has had very limited success this season, with a second place at the Asian indoor championships at Pattaya, Thailand, coming at a meagre 6.32m. Her Federation Cup feat of 6.47m metres in Delhi was also not inspiring and she touched a new low while failing to make the final of the World indoor championships, with a best of 6.34m.

The Indian favourite will cross swords with home favourite, Bronwyn Thompson, for the medal. Thompson has 6.91m for the season, apart from a few other marks over 6.70m. She has come back from an injury that spoilt her season last year.

In the limelight

Vikas Gowda came into the limelight during the Olympics year two years ago. Vikas had a career-best throw at Charlotte, North Carolina (U.S.), last year when he threw the discus to a distance of 64.69m, a national record. That also happened to be third best among the Commonwealth athletes for the year, behind Frantz Kruger of South Africa (67.30) and Jason Tunks of Canada (66.59).

The ups and downs that the woman discus throwers have undergone during the last two seasons, the dope positive returned by Neelam Singh at the Helsinki World championships last year and the mystery surrounding the form of the top throwers this season makes it difficult to forecast India's fortunes in this event.

However, one thing is certain. New Zealand's former world champion Beatrice Faumuina, the defending champion, should carry home the gold once again. It will be a matter of silver and bronze then. And in this contest, Seema Antil and Harwant Kaur should have an equal chance along with Elizna Naude of South Africa. AP