London Olympics: Focus on Gowda and Poonia as action shifts to athletics

ojkronpah

first_imgThe blue riband athletics competition at the Olympics begins on Friday and focus will also be on the Indians as well.After the top-liners had been hit by doping controversies that took the sheen off the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games efforts, this is the time for redemption.The much-touted women’s 4×400 relay team, which was spearheaded by double-gold medalist from Guangzhou, Ashwini Akkunji, was the most prominent athlete to be hit in the scandal. So severe was the blow that all faith in Indian performances was lost among the sport’s dwindling fans.India has never won a medal in Olympic athletics, the closest being fourth places for Milkha Singh in 400m in 1960 and P T Usha in 400m hurdles for women in 1984. Other Indian finalists have been Gurbachan Singh Randhawa in 110m hurdles in 1964, Sriram Singh in 800m in 1976 and Anju Bobby George in women’s long jump in 2004.Pundits might aver that a strong showing in London might bring back some of the old faithful, but it will also raise the question: “Is this for real?”There are 14 Indians in London, the second highest after the two dozen who went to Sydney. But the most prominent of the 14 that India has sent this time will incidentally be in discus for both men and women.Vikas Gowda, trained by his father, Shiva Gowda, and Krishna Poonia, should on form get into the finals, but after that they will at best be a long shot. A top-six should be heartening enough.The US-based Gowda this year became the first Indian to win a medal in the Diamond League in New York and was among the leading athletes in the standings. His best distance of 66.28m might make him a long shot but the fact remains whether he can come up with his best at the big moment. The world champion, Robert Harting of Germany is the top contender with consistent distances of over 70 metresKrishna Poonia, who struck a historic gold at the Commonwealth Games, is capable of 64-metres plus but the question is, has she recovered fully from her injuries. Ranked in the top-10 of the world, she has to be aware that at least six to eight throwers have gone past 67 metres, while her best is under 65 metres.On the first day of athletics on Friday, shot putter Om Prakash Singh will be in action. Credited with a distance of over 20 metres, he has trained in Hungary over the past two years.Apart from men’s shot put, Friday will also see the qualification rounds of women’s triple jump, where Mayookha Johny will be in action, and women’s discus with Poonia.India also has three walkers, Gurmeet Singh, Baljinder Singh and Irfran in 20km and Bahadur Rana in 50km walk. The three in shorter distance have all achieved ‘A’ qualifying marks, while Bahadur came through with a national record in World Race Walking Cup in May.Then there is marathon runner, Ram Singh Yadav who has been training in high altitude Ooty.Tintu Luka (800m), a trainee of former Olympic finalist PT Usha, Seema Antil in discus, Renjith Maheshwary in men’s triple jump, Sudha Singh in women’s 3000m steeplechase and Sahana Kumar in women’s high jump will also be watched closely.advertisementlast_img

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