Neeraj Chopra star attraction at Federation Cup Athletics

Patiala, Mar 14 (PTI) Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will be the biggest attraction among 617 athletes, who would ply their trade at the 24th Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships starting here on Monday.

The five-day championship will feature 38 events.

With the deferred-Tokyo Olympic Games, scheduled to start on July 23 this year, a number of athletes will be looking to consolidate their rankings with good performances here, if not to attain qualifying marks.

For the likes of steeplechaser Avinash Sable and Neeraj, the Federation Cup would be a platform too chisel the rough edges further.

The three Indian Grand Prix meets (February 18, 25 and March 5) had built the stage for the Federation Cup championships.

Neeraj’s national record effort (88.07m), long jumper M Sreeshankar’s 8.05m effort the previous week and sprinter Dutee Chand’s comfortable victories in the 100m in the first two meets were the highlights.

Of the four finals on the opening day, the women’s 10,000m and javelin throw events will hold greater attention of fans and connoisseurs alike.

Long distance runner Sanjivani Jadhav will return to national-level track competition after serving a two-year sanction.

She will be up against 2019 South Asian Games silver medalist Kavita Yadav, Arati Patil and a crop of younger competitors.

Away from the finals, there will be considerable interest in Dutee Chand’s quest to stop the clock inside the 11.15-second mark that would secure automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Sreeshankar will feature in the long jump qualifying while Asian Games 800m gold medalist Manjit Singh will return to competition after nearly two years when he runs the 1500m.

Besides, the availability, form and fitness of the men and women’s 400m runners will also evoke more than cursory attention. Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Arokia Rajiv, Dharun Ayyasamy will showcase their prowess in the two rounds for men on Monday while the women’s first round heats will offer some important pointers.

The SOP laid down by the AFI and Sports Ministry will be in force. Competitors, who are expected to have a RTPCR negative report, are being allowed entry into the NIS campus only two hours before their respective events.

With no spectators being allowed in the NIS Campus, AFI will facilitate live streaming of events on its YouTube channel so that fans have a ringside view of the competition.