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SAG: India set for rich medal haul in athletics

South Asian Games

Guwahati :  laggards on the world stage they might be but India’s track-and-field athletes will certainly be a dominating force in the 12th South Asian Games when the blue-riband event takes off here tomorrow.

India had fielded a 68-member strong squad with Rio Olympic Games-bound Inderjeet Singh as spearhead and home athletes are expected to stamp their regional superiority even without some of the top draws who have been left out in view of Olympic preparations.

There are three other Olympic bound athletes in the Indian squad. Apart from Inderjeet, the squad also includes woman shot putter Manpreet Kaur and marathoners Nitender Singh Rawat and Kheta Ram. Also there would be sprinter Dutee Chand, who is eager to make a mark after winning a landmark gender case against the IAAF, and old warhorse Renjith Maheswary.

In the last edition, India had won 10 gold, 11 silver and 8 bronze medals and this time it will be even more considering
that the number of events here has been increased to 37 events from the earlier 23.

In most of the events, it will be a straight fight between the Indians and Sri Lankans who have also sent a strong team.

The Lankans are also hoping to have a better haul than the 22 medals (8 gold, 8 silver, 6 bronze) they had won last time. They have included Rio-bound marathoners Indrajith Cooray and Geethani Rajasekara, top high jumper Manjula Kumara in their squad.

Tomorrow, there are 10 medal events and India are expected to run away with most of the gold, if not all. It should be easy for Manpreet to bag the gold in the women’s shot put while Dutee will be aiming to become the fastest woman of the Games when she steps out for the 100m dash.

In the men’s 100m, however, Sri Lankans should be the favourites in the absence of top Indians though Gaurav Kumar should be among the podium finishers. Sri Lanka’s Himasha Eshan is the favourite after his season’s best effort of 10.36 seconds in a domestic event.

In men’s high jump event tomorrow, the Games record established in 2004 by Manjula has remained intact. Manjula (personal best 2.27m) will attempt his third gold and is the favourite tomorrow.

UK based Indrajith Cooray has already booked a ticket to Rio, his third Olympics. That makes him a top contender for the marathon gold.

In the women’s long jump, India’s Mayookha Johny will be up against Sri Llanka’s NCD Priyadharshani who is the current South Asian leader.

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