New Delhi: Top track and field stars, including the likes of Asian Games gold medallist discus thrower Seema Punia and women's 4x400m relay runners, will vie for top honours in the season-ending National Open Athletics Championships, which begins here on Sunday.
Besides Punia, who is representing All India Police, the field for the four-day meet at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex will also have the likes of Asian Games medal winners in Tintu Luka (800m; Railways), M R Poovamma (400m; ONGC), O P Jaisha (1500m & 5000m; Punjab), Lalita Babbar (3000m steeplechase; Railways), Annu Rani (javelin throw; Railways), Khushbir Kaur (20km race walk, ONGC) and Rajiv Arokia (400m; Services).
One of the three top domestic events (besides National Inter-State and Federation Cup), the National Open will also see national record holders Arpinder Singh (triple jump; ONGC), Mayookha Johny (long jump and triple jump), Sahani Kumari (high jump; Karnataka), Shidhanth Thingalaya (110m hurdles; ONGC) among others in action.
National record holder and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Krishna Poonia has, however, decided to skip the meet.
Railways, which employs some of the best athletes in the country, has fielded 118 participants while 99 from All India Police will be among around 1000 sportspersons who will take part in the event.
ONGC, another institutional team that employs some top athletes of the country and is also the meet sponsors, will field 50 athletes.
The event will start with the women's and men's 20km race walk early morning tomorrow.
Unlike National Inter-State and Federation Cup, which had
respectively served as the selection trials for Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the National Open has no such significance but it can serve as a platform for some new faces and youngsters to announce their arrival at the big stage.
Most of the top athletes, on the other hand, are not expected to exert too much, thus the meet may not see the best times or national records.
"I'm going for the gold at the ONGC National Open Athletics Championships. This is the last race of this season and I may not be able to focus on my timing," said Poovamma who won a bronze in 400m individual race and a gold in the 4x400m relay at the Incheon Asian Games.
Moreover, the throw events will not be held inside the main stadium but at the adjacent training facility. The main stadium has been booked for some time by the organisers of the ongoing Indian Super League football tournament.
The Delhi franchise of the ISL -- Delhi Dynamos -- has four more matches to host at the football pitch and the Sports Authority has apparently heeded to the ISL organisers' plea that any throw events may damage the central pitch.