Impossible to win a gold but we may hope for a medal: AFI
| Kolkata: The likes of Vikas Gowda and Krishna Poonia may be peaking at the right time, but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) conceded that a gold medal finish at the London Olympics remains next to impossible.
A big gulf separates the Indian athletes` standard to that of the Olympic marks but the AFI is keeping its fingers crossed as far as discus throwers Gowda and Poonia, and Gurmeet Singh (20km walk) are concerned.
"We will compete in many individual events this time. They (Gowda, Poonia and Gurmeet) all have attained `A` standards, which is a positive sign. It is impossible to win a gold, but we may hope for a medal," AFI Secretary General, C K Valson said.
He, however, added that AFI would be satisfied if the athletes could finish in top eight in 10 events that they would compete in.
"I cannot say `yes` or `no` to winning a medal. We are hoping a medal but it depends on how they perform on that day. But realistically, we would be satisfied if most of our athletes come in first 8, that will be a morale-booster," Valson said.
India`s best performance in the Olympics so far have been Milkha Singh fourth place in the 400m at 1960 Rome Olympics, while P T Usha ended with a similar feat in 1984 Los Angeles where she lost the bronze in a photo-finish.
This time, out of the 14 who have made the cut, only two, Tintu Luka in (800m) and Sudha Singh (3000m steeplechase) are in track and field events.
India do not have any representation in any of the men`s categories as Asian Games 400m hurdles champion Joseph Abraham failed to qualify because he ran out of time to attain the Olympic Qualification mark.
Dismissing criticism that it was poor planning on the part of the AFI that had cost the Asian Games medallists trio of Abraham, Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut a berth at the London Games, Valson said the Federation gave the athletics enough exposures to attain the qualification mark.
Stating that Abraham was unlucky to have missed out on some competitions due to injury, Valson said, "He was injured and could not take part in the Indian GP and National Inter-State (during April-June). It was a crucial period.
"After he recovered, we tried our best to give him as many international competitions to attain the Olympic qualification mark. He went to the Asian Championships and Asian All-Star but eventually he ran out of time."
Asked about the women`s long-distance duo of Preeja and Kavita (both 10,000m), he said, "They tried their best. They were abroad (Kenya and Italy) training under top Kenyan coaches. But it`s unfortunate that only Sudha Singh (3000m steeple chase) could attain the (Olympic B standard) mark."
His response to Tintu Luka`s poor preparation in 800m was no different.
"We tried our level best to give her the best competitions but at the European Championship her timing was not enough to figure among the participants as a stand-bye entry was given.”
"We`re helpless in such cases. She, however took part in the Doha meet (Diamond League)."
Poonia in May had threw 64.76 metres in Wailuku, Hawai Islands, which was her best but that was still way short of Russia's Darya Pishchalnikova who has a personal best of 70.69 at Cheboksary this month.
US-based Gowda threw 66.28 metres at Norman in April to shatter his own national mark of 64.96 but this is also way below mark as Rober Hartling of Germany topped the charts with 70.66 at Turnov in May.
In 20km walk, Gurmeet Singh with a best of 1::21:31 (at Nomi in March) is India's hope, even as Italy's Alex Schwazer is way ahead with a timing of 1::17:30 (at Lugano in March).
Valson, however, has pinned his hopes on Gurmeet.
"His qualification standard it very high. He is definitely one of our hopes. He may not win a medal but we can expect him to come within six," said Valson.
With three members of the Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medal winning women's 4x400m relay quartet -- Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose and Mandeep Kaur -- caught for doping and the fourth, Manjeet Kaur ruled to have retired by a NADA panel, India failed to be among the top 16 countries, which qualified for the London Games.
Valson, however felt that the doping scandal will not cast a spell on the athletics contingent.
"The athletes are frequently testing their samples at the meets. There is no worry whatsoever. They are clean."
Valson is leaving for London on August 3, the day the athletics competitions get underway.
First Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 15:42
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