Indian athletes aim to book Olympic berths in Indian Grand Prix

New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) A slew of athletics stars, former champions on a comeback trail and upcoming ones are expected to clinch qualification berths for the 2016 Olympic Games when the first Indian Grand Prix gets underway here on Sunday.

The two-leg Indian GP Series and the Federation Cup will provide an early start to the Rio countdown for Indian athletes who are hoping to book their Olympics berths in these qualification championships.

The Federation Cup will be held later at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here from April 28-30 while the second leg of the Indian GP is scheduled to be held at NS NIS Patiala.

Leading the campaign for a 2016 Olympics berth at the first Indian GP will be ace discus thrower Krishna Poonia, the first Indian woman to win a gold medal in athletics at the Commonwealth Games. Poonia finished sixth in the 2012 London Olympics and is returning to action after a gap of two years, post-surgery.

There are high expectations from the national javelin campers from both men and women who are shaping up well under foreign coach Gary Calvert. The Australian coach’s arrival in February has raised the morale of Indian javelin throwers who always seemed to have the potential but needed a world-class mentor to break the barrier.

The performance of young gun Neeraj Chopra, who threw 82.23m (Personal Best) at the 2016 South Asian Games and 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist Annu Rani and Suman Devi will be keenly watched by their foreign expert. The 2016 Olympics qualifications marks for men and women are 83 metres and 62 metres respectively.

Quarter-millers M.R. Poovamma and Arokya Rajiv won the bronze medal in the Asian Games, while the former was also part of the 2014 Asian Games gold-winning quartet in the women’s 4x400m relay. The duo came close to achieving the 2016 Olympics qualification mark last year and they will now be aiming to end the suspense sooner than later.

Overall, more than 100 athletes are expected to participate in 19 events in the first Indian GP. The meet is being hosted by the Delhi State Athletics Association under the aegis of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

The following events will be conducted in Indian Grand Prix-I&II: Men: 1) 100m, 2) 400m, 3) 1500m, 4) 3000m, 5) long jump, 6) triple jump, 7) high jump, 8) shot put, 9) javelin throw, 10 discus throw.

Women: 1) 100m, 2) 400m, 3) 1500m, 4) 3000m, 5) long jump, 6) triple jump, 7) shot put, 8) javelin throw, 9) discus throw.