CWG 2014: Slim chance for track and field stars to emulate 2010 success

Lacking in preparation and with most of their top stars struggling, India may find it hard to match up their 2010 show when the track and field events of the 20th edition of Commonwealth Games kickstart on Sunday.

India had won 12 medals, including two gold, in Delhi but they are set to lose out on medals this time around as they have come to Scotland woefully short on exposure. Even the most positive are not predicting more than four medals.

 CWG 2014: Slim chance for track and field stars to emulate 2010 success

Representational Image. Getty

Only a handful of athletes, including defending discus throw champion Krishna Poonia and Seema Punia, have got the chance for training-cum-exposure trips outside the country and they were well short of their personal best in those events.

Except for US-based men's discus thrower Vikas Gowda, none had done anything noteworthy. Gowda, himself had not been consistent in the major international events.

The 32-member strong Indian team's medal chances will hinge on the likes of defending women's discus throw champion Krishna Poonia and Gowda (men's discus throw) and young Arpinder Singh (men's triple jump).

Women's 4x400m relay quartet has an outside chance for a medal while women's discus may give another medal with Seema Punia in a field which has very few world-class competitors.

The Indians begin their campaign with men's shot put qualifying round tomorrow as Om Prakash Singh Karhana will take guard. Om Prakash holds the national record of 20.69m but he has struggled in the last couple of years and his season's best is 19.74m.

The other events, Sharadha Narayana (women's 100m heats and Machettira Poovamma (400m heats) will be on the track. The two may qualify for the semifinals but making it to the finals may just be out of sight.

Indian team head coach Bahadur Singh told PTI that he would be happy if the athletes could come up even with their season's best.

"I don't predict how many medals we will win or who will win. I will be happy if each of the athletes come up with their season's best. We hope to do well but it all depends on the day of performance," said Bahadur, who before leaving for Glasgow had said that "CWG is a different ball game".

The 31-year-old Gowda has had a great start to the season with a second place finish at Doha Diamond League Meeting in May, hitting 63.23 with the discus. He went on to set a season's best of 65.62 at the Tucson Elite Classic in United States but struggled at Rome and New York legs of the Diamond League.

Poonia is the best medal hope among Indian women. However, she has been struggling for form after suffering a groin injury post 2012 London Olympics. She finished outside podium in the 2013 Asian Championships in Pune and has not touched 60m since then. She was sent for training-cum-exposure tour to United States but her latest best performance was a 59.17m last week.

The 32-year-old Indian, who holds the national record of 64.76m, will face stiff competition in Glasgow from Dani Samuels of Australia. 2009 World Champion Samuels hurled the discus to 67.99m this May and will be strong favourite for gold in Glasgow.

Poonia could well end up with silver behind Samuels and Seema, whose season's best is 59.72m, may also sneak in with a bronze.

India had swept all the women's discus throw medals in 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Another Indian who carries burden of expectation is young triple jumper Arpinder Singh, who is now both the Commonwealth and Asian leader this season so far. The 21-year-old came up with a huge jump of 171.17m in Lucknow in June and if he repeats that effort, he should be a strong candidate for gold.

But, that was his first 17m plus effort in his career. His second best is 16.84m. He had also won a bronze in 2013 Asian Championships in Pune with 16.58m.

Sahana Kumari will be competing in women's High Jump, having come up with a season's best of 1.89m, while M R Poovamma may hope to perform her best in women's 400m.

Poovamma, 24, who will also spearhead India's 4x400m campaign, has a season's best of 51.73sec, making her a medal hopeful.

In women's 800m, Tintu Luka does not have much chance in a world class field and a medal from her is a far cry.

The 25-year-old has a personal best and national record of 1:59.17 which she set in 2010. But only twice in her career, Luka has run sub-2min in an international event and at least five from Commonwealth countries have run sub-2min this season itself.

Luka once again may have to remain India's perennial medal hope but never rose to occasions in her five-year senior international career since 2009 under the tutelage of legendary PT Usha. Another star of the 2010 Delhi CWG is Ashwini Akkunji, who came out last year from a two-year ban for a doping offence, would want to prove that she is among the best in the country but it would be really difficult to win a medal here in her pet event of 400m Hurdles.

The 26-year-old Karnataka athlete, who Was part of 4x400m Relay gold-winning quartet in 2010 Delhi CWG, has a season's best of 57.43sec though she did a personal best of 56.15 while winning gold in 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

At least five hurdlers belonging to Commonwealth nations, including hot favourites Eilidh Child of Scotland and Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica, have run sub-55 secs this season so far.

India won 12 medals (2, 3, 7) in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, sixth among participating countries behind Kenya (11, 10, 8), Australia (11, 6, 3), England (7, 9, 10), Canada (7, 2, 8) and Jamaica (2, 4, 1).

This time also, Kenya, Australia, England and Jamaica have sent strong athletics teams. Kenya has even included world record holder 800m runner David Rudisha in their team.

In the last edition, many top stars from Jamaica did not take part in Delhi, but this time they have included the likes of sprint superstar Usain Bolt though he is available for only men's 4x100m relay race. Women's reigning Olympic champion Shelly Ann is also there in the squad though she will also run only in 4x100 relay.

So, it could be a showdown for supremacy between Kenya and Jamaica with Australia and England not lagging far behind.

PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 26, 2014 17:21:30 IST