New Delhi: On the day that World Athletics announced a revised and curtailed schedule in an attempt to kick off the Diamond League—track & field’s premier competition—it looks like the small handful of Indian athletes who make the grade will not be able to participate in the league.
The Diamond League Circuit this year will be a series of 10 one-day competitions spread over 10 weeks, which will provisionally commence on August 14 in Monaco and conclude on October 14 in Eugene, USA. The series was originally scheduled from May to September, but was deferred because of the pandemic.
“I don’t think our athletes will get a chance to participate in international competitions because they haven’t started training. Since there is no clarity when the training will resume, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to achieve good fitness for the Diamond League,” said Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla.
The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games gold medal winning javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, for example, is confined to his room at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala since March. “I’m only doing general fitness inside my room,” Chopra told HT. All training facilities at NIS are closed.
In fact, almost all of India’s elite athletes, including those who have made the cut for the Olympics, have been stuck at Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) centres in Patiala and Bengaluru, with no access to training facilities or grounds, since the nationwide lockdown was began on March 24.
Chopra and fellow thrower Shivpal Singh had met the Olympic qualifying standard of 85 metres in January and March, respectively. After missing all of 2019 due to an elbow injury to his throwing arm, Chopra had surprised everyone in his first competition after comeback with a throw of 87.86 metres in January.
In March, when Shivpal achieved 85.47 metres in South Africa, he was excited about competing on the European circuit, including the Diamond League; now he isn’t hopeful. “There hasn’t been any meaningful training since mid-March. So, thinking about competing at the international level isn’t on my mind,” he said.
National record holder in men’s 3000m steeplechase Avinash Sable, who achieved Olympic qualification at the World Championships in Doha last year, was also keen to compete in the Diamond League, but is similarly confined to his room.
“He is stuck in a hotel in Ooty (TN) where he had gone for high-altitude training in February. He is only able to do basic fitness,” said Sable’s coach Amrish Kumar.
The revised provisional Diamond League programme announced on Tuesday is as follows: Monaco (August 14), Gateshead (August 16), Stockholm (August 23), Lausanne (Sept 2), Brussels (Sept 4), Paris (Sept 6), Rome or Naples (Sept 17), Shanghai (Sept 19), Doha (Oct 9) and Eugene (Oct 14).
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