Pune: A record number of athletes and nations will take part in the 20th Asian Athletics Championship which will also witness some top stars of the continent vying for honours here from July 3 to 7.
As many as 580 participants from 43 of the 45-member nations of the Asian Athletics Association will be seen in action at the Shivaji Chhatrapati Sports stadium at Balewadi here in what is touted to be the biggest ever gathering of athletes for the sport`s premier event in the continent.
India is hosting the athletics showpiece event in the continent for the second time after 1989. The event is being organised by Government of Maharashtra and Athletics Federation of India on the 40th year of the establishment of the AAA.
Top athletes in the fray include London Olympics bronze medallist high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, former 1500m world champion and Olympic medallist Mariyam Jamal of Bahrain and India`s Sudha Singh and Vikas Gowda.
Qatar`s Samuel Adelebari Francis, the only sprinter from Asia who clocked sub 10 seconds, will also be in action and will be up against defending champion Su Bingtian of China. Francis though is not a native Asian and is Nigerain by birth.
The biennial showpiece event will though miss the likes of London Olympics gold medallist triple jumper Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan who recently gave birth to a baby boy, London silver winner discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi of Iran and reigning world champion and London silver medallist discus thrower Li Yanfeng.
China, who have ruled Asian athletics for the last 15 editions, have sent the third largest team but not without the likes of up and coming triple jumper Li Jinzhe and high jumper Wang Yu. Japan, who have sent the second biggest team have come without the likes of world champion hammer thrower Koji Murofush and sensational teenage 100m sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu who ran 10.01s to set new world junior record recently.
India is fielding record number of 108 athletes, the largest in the competition with the luxury of three per each of the 42 events (21 each for men and women). They would be hoping for their best ever show with the likes of Sudha Singh (women`s 3000m steeplechase), Vikas Gowda (men`s discus throw), Tintu Luka (women`s 800m) and Krishna Poonia (women`s discus) having prospects for winning gold.