Rio de Janeiro: For a discipline that has given Indian athletes only the Olympian’s tag, the country’s track and field participants will begin their campaign in the Rio Olympics here on Friday with little hope to break the 116-year-old medal jinx.
With the history-chasing Usian Bolt once again set to take centrestage in arguably the most popular Olympic discipline, the Indians are not expected to be a force to reckon with. India may not have won any medal since Norman Pritchard’s 200m silver in the Paris 1900 but the 34-member athletics contingent is here to put up some promising shows by making at least the final, if not getting onto the podium.
Making his fourth successive Olympics appearance, a feat no other Indian athlete has achieved, discus thrower Vikas Gowda will start India’s campaign in athletics when he takes the field at the Olympic Stadium in the morning session. The reigning Commonwealth Games champion had progressed into the final in London 2012 and had finished eighth and the 33-year-old US-based thrower, perhaps in his final Olympics, would look to sign off on a high.
There were some concerns about his shoulder injury as the Mysore-born athlete has been missing all season and it remains to be seen if he is able to better his personal best of 66.28, achieved four years ago. Having produced 17.30m, the third best in the world, at the Indian Grand Prix, Bengaluru exactly two months ago, triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary is expected to share the spotlight. The Kerala-born jumper was a big flop in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 as he’s not able to sustain his effort at the international level and this year it would be a big test for him to make the final.
Having produced 8.19 in Kazakhstan and eclipsing the national record of 8.09 while qualifying for Rio, long jumper Ankit Sharma has improved by leaps and bounds.
“The time has come to do better, I’v worked on my strength and speed which is helping me during the take-off and landing,” he said.
Having breached the eight-metre mark at the Kerala National Games last year, Sharma, who hails from Pinhat village in Agra, has made rapid progress and will be one of the Indian athletes to watch out for. Ankit started this year on a good note when he broke a 27-year event record held by Pakistan’s Md. Urfan, by registering a leap of 7.89m at the South Asian Games. Shifting to distance events, Russian coach Nikolai Snesarev’s three wards OP Jaisha, Sudha Singh and Lailta Babar would look to make it count.