With the finest athletes from across the nation gearing up for the upcoming National Games in Goa, Odisha is also set to register an impressive performance.
Featuring a contingent of 309 athletes, the state is keen to give their athletes a platform to showcase their skills. Much of their good stead can be attributed to quality training, infrastructure and High-Performance Centres.
Martin Owens, who heads the Odisha Reliance Foundation Athletics High Performance Centre shared his thoughts ahead of the marquee competition and reiterated the team's morale, strong preparation and confidence going into Goa.
A total of 12 athletes from Odisha Reliance Foundation Athletics High Performance Centre will be representing Odisha at the National Games. Speaking on their morale, Owens said: "The morale is very high, we were not as confident last year. The confidence is a natural by-product of the intense preparations throughout the year.
Martin Owens further remarked, "for those athletes that didn't go to the Asian Games and weren't focusing on international events, National Games has been the major focus for the whole of the year. It’s their big chance to prove themselves. We recently did well in the Open Nationals and are also currently competing at Indian Open U-23 Athletics Competition 2023 in Chandigarh, this is all part of our preparation for the National Games."
With the robust ecosystem for sports deployed in Odisha, Owens believes that athletes from Odisha are very fortunate and might have an advantage over other states in the long term.
"The Odisha government, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s vision, have put so much investment into athletics and that combined with Reliance's commitment, driven by Mrs. Neeta Ambani, to bring in top quality coaching and top quality processes means that they have a real advantage. We don't necessarily always have the best athletes, but we have the best prepared athletes, and we hope to win medals," he said.
Amongst the exciting athletes that will feature in the Odisha continent, Owens expressed his regard for Animesh Kujur as a medal prospect. The 20-year-old athlete from Odisha recently broke the Men’s 200m meet record at the National Open Championship in Bengaluru with a timing of 20.52.
Owens remarked, “He’s one of our exciting prospects, currently ranked number two in India and rapidly moving up the international rankings, will be exciting to watch him in action.”
On the importance of the National Games for the HPC and the ecosystem, Owens opined, “It is a big meet for us. All competitions are important. That's what we do here. We don't do it to train, we do it to compete. So, if we're not competing, we're in the wrong business.
"The bigger the event, the better the competition and when you have an event like the National Games, featuring the top athletes in the country it is a good measure to show you the impact of what you are doing and how you are doing it."
Odisha athletes at National Games-
Men: Dondapati Mruty Jayaram (100m) (4x100m Relay), Animesh Kujur (200m) (4x100m Relay), Lalu Prasad Boi (4x100m Relay), Aryan Ekka (4x100m Relay), Abisekh Dalabehera (4x100m Relay), Swadhin Kumar Majhi (High Jump) , Kishore Kumar Jena (Javelin)
Women: Pragyan Prasant Sahu (100m Hurdles) (4x100m Relay), Manisha Merel (Long Jump) (4x100m Relay), Sabita Toppo (4x100m Relay), Sukhi Baskey (4x100m Relay), Susmita Tigga (3000m St Chase)