All eyes on Indian athletes at Balewadi
The oft-postponed 20th Asian Athletics Championship finally kickstarted at the Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium, Balewadi yesterday. Politicians as usual hogged the limelight with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan present at the opening ceremony
Strangely with such an prominent event in the city, there were no hoardings promoting the event. Half-filled stands greeted the media as they entered the stadium. The ceremony had its usual share of pomp and glamour. The organisers interspersed local folk dances with Bollywood music. The crowd erupted when Jai Ho and Chak De India rang out.
There are a record 577 athletes competing in 42 events, with the hosts being the largest contingent with 107 athletes. Indian hopes will be pinned on defending champion Mayookah Johny in the women’s long jump and Sudha Singh in the 3000 metres steeplechase. In the men’s events, Vikas Gowda is a good bet in the discus throw while triple jumper Renjith Maheswari also has a chance to finish on the podium.
There will be also be a huge incentive for Indian athletes as the gold medal winners will earn an automatic berth for the Moscow World Athletics Championship in August.
However, the event has seen some athlete pullouts with London Olympics bronze medallist Mutaz Essa Barshim and promising Japanese sprinter Yoshihidi Kiryu, scheduled to participate in the 100 metres, being the most prominent names.