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Indian athletics season put off by at least six months

World Athletics is discussing on having a window for qualification competitions in place of those cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Updated: Mar 30, 2020, 08:40 IST

By Navneet Singh, Hindustan Times New Delhi

The start of the domestic track and field competition could be pushed back by at least seven months because of the Covid-19 crisis (Twitter)

The start of the domestic track and field competition could be pushed back by at least seven months because of the Covid-19 crisis, Indian athletics’ high performance director, Volker Herrmann, has said. Athletics Federation of India cancelled the grand prix series as well as the Federation Cup in April. With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to next year, the federation is redrawing its calendar.

“The domestic season will start in September. There is even a possibility of it being pushed to October,” Herrmann told HT. “Under the given circumstances (nationwide lockdown) it’s not possible for professional athletes to maintain good fitness. After the lockdown, and if things return to normal, it would still take at least 2-3 months to get back to normal training. It’s not just the elite athletes whose training has come to a standstill, even state- and district-level athletes are impacted.”

Five athletes have qualified in individual events, besides the 4x400m mixed relay team. In the 2019 qualifying cycle, only two—KT Irfan (20km race walk) and Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase) qualified. The 4x400m mixed relay team qualified at last year’s world championships in Doha while javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra, the Asian Games champion, and Shivpal Singh achieved the mark in South African domestic competitions recently. In women’s 20km race walk, Rajasthan’s Bawana Jat qualified in the nationals at Ranchi in February.

Most top athletes are at the national camp in Patiala. Asian Games 1,500m champion Jinson Johnson and the national race walking team are based in Bengaluru. “Before the lockdown, the top athletes were training smoothly. We expected many more to qualify for Olympics. But with the break in training, it will be difficult to achieve good results in a short period,” he said. Those who have qualified will retain their Olympic berths which fresh events will be finalised when the situation comes under control.

World Athletics is discussing on having a window for qualification competitions in place of those cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We will continue to do whatever we can to preserve and create an outdoor season of one-day meetings in 2020, starting and ending later than usual (in the evening) so athletes, when they are able and it is safe, will have access to compete in every region,” WA president, Sebastian Coe, said in his signed letter to the athletics fraternity on Friday.

AFI has postponed the inter-state athletics meet, which had been scheduled in Bengaluru from June 25-28 as an Olympic qualifying event. It could be moved to August, or even to next May or June, PTI quoted deputy chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair as saying. The Open national meet, scheduled to be held in Chennai from August 16-19, will also be postponed.

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