Patiala: More than a thousand athletes, including most of the country`s top stars, are set to vie for honours and a place in the Indian team for next month`s Asian Games in the Federation Cup National Athletics Championship which begins here on Saturday.
A record number of 1007 athletes, including 274 women, will take part in the four-day Championships which will also serve as selection trial for the Sep 19-Oct 4 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Except United States-based discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who won a gold in the recently-concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games, all top track and field stars will be seen in action at the NIS Patiala athletics arena.
As expected the competition in throw events -- especially women`s discus -- promises to create a buzz with an exciting line-up in the offing. 2010 CWG gold medallist Krishna Poonia, triple medallist in the CWG (2006-2014), Seema Antil-Poonia and teen sensation Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, who won a ronze in 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, will be in the fray for the title in the women`s discus.
"I`m looking forward to Asian Games and the Federation Cup should provide some exciting competition to launch the preparation," said Poonia, who had a light session today.
Men`s triple jump will see a fight between 2014 Glasgow CWG bronze medallist Arpinder Singh and his senior colleague Renjith Maheswary.
"I was aiming for gold in Commonwealth Games, but things didn`t turn out the way I had planned. But, I hope to do better at Asian Games. I`ve grown up as an athlete at NIS Patiala and I hope to live up to the expectations at the Federation Cup," 21-year-old Arpinder said
Others who will be seen in action include 2010 Asian Games bronze medal winner Tintu Luka, who has been recently nominated for the Arjuna Award, women high jumper Sahana Kumari and Mayookha Johny.
Luka has entered in both women`s 400m and 800m races while Mayookha made entry on women`s long jump as well as triple jump.
2010 Asian Games double gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji who came out of a two-year doping ban last year, will compete in both 400m and 400m hurdles.
The likes of Sudha Singh, Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut, who train in the national camp under foreign coach Nikolai, will also take part in the Championships.
Two international walk race referees, one each from Malaysia and Indonesia, have been invited by Athletics Federation of India to officiate in the race walk events, where India is considered to be an emerging force.
"This year`s Federation Cup assumes special importance because the performance of athletes here will be used as a guideline for selection for Asian Games. I congratulate the Punjab Athletics Association for hosting the Championships and extend my best wishes to all the participants," AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla said.
The AFI also issued guidelines for the selection of athletes for the Asian Games.
"The performance achieved/to be achieved during the year 2014 in IAAF/AFI recognised competitions will be considered; qualifying guidelines considered for selection of only one entry and for second entry the decision of selection committee will be final, which will depend on chances of winning a medal," the release said.
"Participation in the final selection trial is mandatory. Exemption can only be granted by President, AFI in writing against requests. The selection committee will consider the harsh climatic conditions, particularly in middle and long distance and competition required to achieve the guidelines fixed by AFI.
"Selection Committee Members may relax guidelines where the members feel that participation in a particular event have chances of winning a medal chances. In 50km Race Walking, the Selection Committee will decide the names only after consulting the concerned Coach."