New Delhi: Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will once again headline India’s campaign in the World Athletics Championships beginning on August 19 in Budapest, Hungary, with the country fielding a 28-member team.
Surprisingly, the Sports Ministry announced the team instead of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which later said that most of the participating athletes have already reached Hungary to get used to the weather.
Reigning Diamond League champion Chopra is gunning for a gold medal in Budapest after winning a silver in the last edition in Eugene, USA, in 2022. He has won two Diamond League Meetings this season — in Doha on May 5 and Lausanne on June 30.
The 25-year-old, who had missed three top competitions between the two Diamond League Meetings due to a muscle strain sustained while training, is currently training at Magglingen in Switzerland.
His season’s best is the 88.67m in Doha, the third longest throw this season behind 89.51m of Jakub Vadlajch of Czech Republic and 88.72m of Julian Weber of Germany.
Meanwhile, Asian record holder shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor has pulled out of the August 19-27 showpiece as he is recovering from the groin injury he sustained during the Asian Championships in July.
National record holder high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, 800m runner K M Chanda and 20km race walker Priyanka Goswami (also national record holder) have also decided to skip the World Championships as they wanted to focus on Asian Games (September 23 to October 8) in Hangzhou, China.
“Tajinder is recovering from the injury he sustained during Asian Championships, and the others have informed that they would focus for Asian Games rather than World Championships,” a source in the AFI told PTI.
Toor had won shot put gold in Asian Championships in Bangkok on July 14, clearing 20.23m in his second round throw but did not take further part due to groin pain.
He had also missed the 2022 World Championships due to a groin strain he developed just before the event, which also forced him to skip the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Priyanka has been struggling since breaching the World Championships and 2024 Olympics qualifying mark with a performance of 1:28:50 in February during the Race Walk Nationals. She had clocked 1:40:39 to finish seventh on Saturday at the World University Games in Chengdu China.
Tejaswin has been mainly focussing on decathlon — in which high jump is a part of the 10 events — this season, winning bronze medals in the National Inter-State Championships in June and Asian Championships in July.
He had competed in individual high jump event in the Asian Championships and World University Games, finishing seventh (2.10m) and sixth (2.15m) respectively. He holds high jump national record of 2.29m.
Tejaswin had qualified for the World Championships through world ranking quota as well as Chanda.
The AFI was hoping for the mixed 4x400m relay team to qualify for the World Championships but it was ranked 17th on July 30, the qualification period deadline.
For relay races, the top eight teams at the World Championships in the USA last year get automatic qualification. They will be joined by another eight from the top list — the best eight timers of the season — making up a total of 16 teams.
India will have three athletes each in men’s javelin throw, men’s triple jump and men’s 20km race walk.
Akshdeep Singh, Vikash Singh and Paramjeet Bisht qualified through entry standard in men’s 20km race walk, while Praveen Chithravel did the same in triple jump. Abdulla Aboobacker and Eldhose Paul joined Chithravel through world ranking quota.
India’s newest Diamond League medallist, long jumper Murali Sreeshankar will also be looking for a strong show in Budapest, so will be ace 3000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable, who is currently based at the Alpine town of St Moritz (Switzerland) along with other middle and long distance runners.
Talented long jumper Shaili Singh, who qualified through world ranking quota, will leave for Budapest this weekend, while javelin throwers D P Manu and Kishore Kumar Jena are expected to join the team next week.
India were to field four men’s javelin throwers as Chopra had qualified as wild card by virtue of being reigning Diamond League champion but Rohit Yadav pulled out after he underwent an elbow surgery on his throwing arm.
A country can send three athletes per event apart from a wild card entry. An athlete can qualify through breaching the entry standard or through world ranking quota.
The AFI is also not conducting fitness tests on Chithravel and world’s leading long jumper Jeswin Aldrin after they took part in top competitions recently. Chitravel took part in Lausanne Diamond League on July 23 while Aldrin won gold at CITIUS Meeting in Bern, Switzerland with an impressive 8.22m performance.
The Indian Team:
Women: Jyothi Yarraji (100m Hurdles), Parul Chaudhary (3000m Steeplechase), Shaili Singh (Long Jump), Annu Rani (Javelin Throw), Bhawna Jat (20km Race Walk).
Neeraj Chopra, DP Manu and Kishore Kumar Jena (Javelin Throw), Krishan Kumar (800m), Ajay Kumar Saroj (1500m), Santhosh Kumar Tamilarnsan (400m Hurdles), Avinash Mukund Sable (3000m Steeplechase), Sarvesh Anil Kushare (High Jump), Jeswin Aldrin and Murali Sreeshankar (Long Jump), Praveen Chithravel, Abdulla Aboobacker and Eldhose Paul (Triple Jump), Akashdeep Singh, Vikash Singh and Paramjeet Singh (20km Race Walk), Ram Baboo (35km Race Walk), Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal, Muhammed Anas, Rajesh Ramesh, Anil Rajalingam, Mijo Chacko Kurian (Men’s 4x400m Relay).