Pune: It will be a reality check for Indian athletes ahead of the Delhi Commonwealth Games when they vie for top honours in the first leg of Asian Grand Prix to be held at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi here on Tuesday.
India will be represented by 45 men and 39 women, who will compete against athletes from 15 Asian countries including China in the USD 25,000 prize money event.
Going by the form and track record, India will be hopeful of a few gold medals in the women’s section, while the men’s will have a tough challenge ahead in the day-and-night extravaganza at the sprawling venue that last hosted the Commonwealth Youth Games in October 2008.
All eyes would be on legendary PT Usha’s protege Tintu Luka, who was in sizzling form at the 50th National Open Athletics Championships in Kochi from May 15-18.
Tintu, who set a meet record with a timing of 2:01.61s in the 800m apart from clinching the second gold in 400m in Kochi, will be eyeing the top place in her pet event.
She will have challengers in Kazakhstan’s Margarita Matsko and Viktoria Supronova, though the duo have inferior timings than the Indian.
India will also look forward to clinch gold in the discus throw which has a clear dominance of the women trio of Seema Antil, Harwant Kaur and Krishna Poonia.
Seema recently won the gold in the National Open with a throw of 53.05m, though she boasts of a personal best of 59.85m.
Among the three, Harwant has the best throwing record of 61.09m, followed by Krishna (60.78m).
With ace 400m runner Manjit Kaur pulling out at the last moment, India will have to depend on Ratnadeep Kaur (55.49s) in the event that features Kazakhstan’s Marina Maslyonko (52.68s) and Sri Lankan Chandrika Subashini Rasnayaka (53.41).
Indian women’s quartet will also look to challenge Papua New Guinea’s four-member team, who have a best timing of 03:40.5s in the 4x400m relay.
National Open gold medallist Sharda Narayan (11.56) and H M Jyothi (11.6) will be India’s hopes in women’s 100m that will see 34-year-old Doha Asiad champion Guzel Khubbieva of Uzbekistan in action. Guzel boasts of a timing of 11.31s.
A total of 10 events (100m, 400m, 800m, 110m, 4x100m, 4x400m, High jump, Long jump, Shot put, triple jump) each in the men’s and women’s section will take place.
In the men’s section, India’s best chance will be in the 4x400m relay with the side boasting Sheikh Mortuza, VB Binish, P Kunhumuhammed, J Premanand and Bibin Mathew among others.
India also have some hopes in 400m with Mortuza boasting the best track record of 46.16s, while in-form Kunhumuhammed (47.140) is on par having won the National Open recently.
S Prakash Verma, Pankaj Dimri and Francis SG will hope to challenge Kuwait’s Mohammad Alazemi in the 800m section, even as 100m hurdles and 4x100m relay events look very tough from the Indian perspective.
National Open gold winner Ranjith Maheshwari will hope to earn a medal in the triple jump, which has China’s Wu Bo (17.16m).
Mahan Singh, Ankit Sharma and Hari Krishna will be Indian flag-bearers in the long jump which looks to be dominated by the Chinese duo of Su Xiongfeng and Yu Zhengwei.
Xionfeng recently soared to 8.27m in an indoor meet in China. Om Prakash (20.02m) will be fighting it out against Chinese opponent Zhang Jun (20.41) in shot put which also promises a medal.
The second and third legs of the circuit meet will be held in Bangalore (June 5) and Chennai (June 9) respectively.
Last edition of the Asian GP was held in China with Suzou, Kunshan and Hong Kong hosting the three legs.
Pune last time hosted the Asian GP in 2007 when the city hosted the third leg of the meet with Bangkok and Guwahati organising the first two rounds.
The city also hosted the Asian GP’s third leg in 2006 when Sanas Ground was the venue.