New Delhi: As part of preparation for the Rio Olympics, a 22-member Indian athletics squad, including Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose and Jithin Paul, will be training for 70 days at a state-of-the-art centre in Antalya, Turkey.
The athletes along with the support staff, including veteran coach Yuri Ogorodnik, leave for Antalya on Saturday morning.
The squad comprises of the national campers for quarter-mile event, 400m hurdles, and the 4x400m relay events for both men and women.
A total of eight women, nine men, five coaches and support staff are part of the squad with two more support staff and other athletes expected to join the Antalya training camp in a fortnight's time.
Athletics Federation of India (AFI) President and IAAF Council Member Adille J Sumariwalla said, "The AFI will strive to do everything under its limit to provide the best training facilities to our athletes for 2016 Olympics. The training centre in Antalya in Turkey offers the right combination of climatic conditions, namely, sea, land, hills and forest areas, and also a synthetic hill track for the training of our athletes.
"We hope these world-class training conditions will make a difference to the preparation of our athletes for Rio and I extend my best wishes to all of them. I'm also grateful to the Sports Authority of India and the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for supporting our athletes."
The Antalya stint is expected to help the preparation for 2016 Olympics for the men's and women's 4x400m relay and also boost the chances of Indian athletes in individual events, in women's and men's 400m and 400m hurdles.
The 4x400m women's relay squad is the reigning Asian Games champion and Asian Games record-holder while the men's 4x400m relay team has won a medal in the past at the Asian Games.
In the men's and women's 400m individual event, Rajiv Arokia and MR Poovamma won the bronze medal in the 2014 Asian Games respectively, and recently, the duo come close to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
Star athlete Ashwini Akkunji had won two gold medals in the 2010 Asian Games, including one for the women's 400m hurdles race.