Eight-month suspension of Olympic qualification period big blow for Indian athletes: Coach Nair

NEW DELHI: World Athletics’ decision to suspend the Olympic qualification period till end of November has dealt a huge blow to Indian track-and-field competitors aiming for Tokyo, who were hoping to make the cut through domestic meets tentatively scheduled later this year. The events are not yet confirmed given the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the country into a lockdown.

World Athletics on Tuesday suspended the qualification period for the Tokyo Games from April 6 to November 30, 2020, following consultation with its Athletes’ Commission, continental association presidents and the Council. During this period, results achieved at any competition will not be considered for Tokyo Games entry standards or world rankings, the publication of which will also be suspended. India’s Deputy chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair the decision would disappoint many Indian athletes. “World Athletics decision will be a big blow for the likes of Tajinderpal Singh Toor (shot put), Anu Rani (javelin throw), M Sreeshankar (long jump) and sprinter Dutee Chand,” Nair told PTI from NIS-Patiala. Star sprinter Hima Das is also yet to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Olympic medal hopeful Neeraj Chopra, his javelin throw team-mate Shivpal Singh, the mixed 4x400m relay team, K T Irfan (men’s 20km race walk), Bhawna Jat (women’s 20km race walk) and Avinash sable (3000m steeplechase) have already qualified for the Tokyo Games. The world body has said those athletes who have already met the Olympic entry standard since the start of the qualification period in 2019 will remain qualified. Asked what could have been the rationale behind the World Athletics’ decision to freeze the qualification period till the end of November, Nair said, “I think many countries are not sure when the COVID-19 situation will be alright and can start training. “Moreover, it is not fare to give athletes almost two years as qualifying period.”

The qualifying period for most of the events, barring long distance races and race walk, began in May 2019 and was to end in June this year. But after the Olympics was pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic, the qualification period will now resume from December 1, 2020 until June 29, 2021. Nair said the Athletics Federation of India is hoping to hold the National Inter-State Championships and National Open in September and October but the performance of the athletes may not exactly be the best as they will not be counted for the Olympics qualification. –PTI

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