Indian Athletics Review 2015: On the road to Rio Olympics!

It’s been another successful year for Indian Athletics in the run up the 2016 Olympic Games as a number of athletes notched up laurels and medals at prestigious international championships.

The ‘gentle giant’, discus   thrower Vikas Gowda, shot putter Inderjeet Singh who dazzled with a golden streak between May-July, ‘queen of steeplechase, Lalita Shivaji Babar, long and middle distance champion O.P. Jaisha and former Asian Games champion in steeplechase Sudha Singh who shone in the marathon event in a new development in Indian athletics brought the high points in the bygone year.

On the medal count, India finished 3rd in the Asian Athletics Championships (seniors) with 13 Medals at Wuhan (China) held in June. The Indian team produced its best performance at the Asian Athletics Championships since 2007, winning four Gold— Gowda, Inderjeet, Babar and Tintu Lukka contributed a piece each. Next, the Indian Team clinched 27 medals in the Asian Grand Prix Series held the same month in Thailand.

Earlier, India’s Youth team took the second spot in the overall medal numbers at the Asian Youth Championship held earlier in Doha in May while the Indian team bagged 6 Medals in athletics at the Commonwealth Youth Games held in September.

At the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, three Indians,   Babar, Gowda and Singh reached the finals. Babar came with flying colours with a creditable eighth position and also set a National record of 9:27.86. While competing in his fifth World Championships, Gowda made it to his third final but ended up ninth with a throw of 63.84m. Asian champion Inderjeet Singh finished 11th and last in the final round while Tintu Luka (women’s 800m) failed to qualify for semifinals but managed to reach the Rio Olympics qualification time of 2:01.00, clocking her season’s best of 2:00.95 to finish seventh in the heats.

In the women’s marathon, O P Jaisha smashed her own national record with a timing of 2:34:43 to finish 18th with compatriot Sudha Singh just behind her.

At home, the AFI’s dream project, the 13th National Inter-District Junior Athletics Meet held in Visakhapatnam, witnessed a record entry of 3600 athletes from 323 district units, which came as a major boost to the biggest grass root sports programme in India.

Back to the 2016 Olympics preparations, as many as 15 athletes (8 men & 7 women) have already attained the Olympic qualification and more qualifications are expected in the run-up to the Games.

Gowda, the reigning Commonwealth Games and Asian champion, made the qualification grades with a winning throw of 65.14m in Jamaican International Invitation Athletics Meet held at Kingston on May 9. National Games champion Sapana was the only woman athlete to receive the benefits of this revised entry standards. Sapana, who finished fourth in this year’s Asian 20 Km Race Walking championships at Nomi City (Japan) on 15th March with a time of 1 hour 35 minutes 36 seconds, has cleared the new qualification mark of 1:36:00.

Distance runner Nitender Singh Rawat, who clocked an impressive 2 hours 18 minutes 6 seconds to finish eighth in the globally renowned World Military Games at Mungyeong (Korea) on October 11, was the other athlete to gain a chance to represent India at the Olympics.

Another good news came in August just before the IAAF World Championships at the IAAF Congress in Beijing as India achieved a significant representation in the IAAF Council with Athletics Federation of India’s President Adille Sumariwalla elected as the member in the polls which elected former Olympian and London 2012 Olympic Games Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe as the president.

Athletics got its share among the Arjuna Awardees this year with quarter-miler M.R. Poovamma being conferred with the prestigious honour in September.

After being elected as the sixth president of IAAF, Coe visited India in his first tour to a member country within a month of his election as IAAF chief to discuss with the AFI top brass how the sport could be given a push in the country. Coe, whose grandfather was an Indian, also signed a MoU between Sports Authority of India, Athletics Federation of India and IAAF to launch the Centre of Excellence in Athletics at JNU Stadium, New Delhi.

Much needed Ukrainian Coach Yuri Ogrodnik, who helped Indian relay team win several medals at major championships from 2001-2010, was brought back as the athletics coach for the 4x400m relay event. The 77-year-old Yuri’s appointment was finally cleared by the government after a long delay as the AFI insisted on it and interestingly he took charge of the 4x400m relay team and started the training and preparation for the Rio Olympics as soon as he joined.

The city of Ranchi got awarded the 2017 edition of the Asian Championships by Asian Athletics Association in October, this will be the third time overall the country will be hosting the event after 1989 and 2013.

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