BIRMINGHAM: Olympic champion Neeraj ChopraThe withdrawal of was a blow but the Indian athletics team for the Commonwealth The Games still have several medal contenders vying for top honors when the track and field events begin here on Tuesday.
Chopra will not defend the javelin throw title he won last year in Gold Coast due to a groin sprain he suffered during his silver-winning feat at the World Championships. in the United States last month.
In his absence, long jump enthusiasts Murali Sreeshankarhurdler Avinash Sable, veteran discus thrower Seema Punia and javelin thrower Annu Rani are expected to step up and look for glory in the multi-sport spectacle.
India should also win at least one medal on one of the three triple jumpers in Praveen ChitravelAbdulla Aboobacker and Eldhose Paul, who have reached the final of the World Championships, as they are currently among the best in the Commonwealth this season.
With the emergence of several world-class athletes, especially after Chopra won a historic gold medal in athletics at the Tokyo Olympics last year, India is said to be looking for at least half a dozen medals at the Birmingham Games.
The best collection of medals in athletics in the country took place at the CWG in Delhi in 2010 with 2 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze medals. This performance will surely be hard to match, but the Indians are said to be looking for their second best show ever.
The second best show of the Indian athletics contingent at CWG so far was the three medals (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze each) in the 2014 and 2018 editions.
Indian action kicks off on Tuesday with the men’s long jump qualifying round which will feature Sreeshankar and Muhammed Anees Yahiya.
National record holder Sreeshankar has been in fine form jumping over 8m on several occasions this season, although he failed to impress in his seventh-place finish at the World Championships with a best jump of 7.96 m.
He could have won at least a bronze medal if he had equaled his personal best for the season at 8.36m.
Sreeshankar will head into the Games as the season leader among athletes from Commonwealth countries.
Yahiya has also jumped over 8m five times this season with a record 8.15m in March and he is also in contention for a medal if he qualifies for the final on August 4.
A medal is to be expected on the first day of competition from veteran Seema and his compatriot Navjeet Kaur Dhillonrespectively silver and bronze medalists of the last edition.
Seema is aiming for her fifth medal in as many appearances after winning three silver and one bronze so far. India’s most decorated CWG athlete, she has never returned empty-handed, although her best performance this season was the 57.09m effort at Chula Vista in the United States last month.
She had won a silver medal in the last edition with a best throw of 60.41m.
Dhillon did not break the 60m mark this year with a best of 58.03m in May, but in a weak field she can win a medal if she improves on her season best.
National record holder Manpreet Kaur will also be in action on Tuesday in the women’s shot put qualifying round while star sprinter Dutee Chand will compete in the first round of the 100m.
high jumper Tejaswin Shankarwho was included at the last minute on the orders of the Delhi High Court after being passed over in the original squad, will also get his qualifying round.
With five finalists from the Eugene World Championships heading to Birmingham where the competition will be relatively easier, India would like the chance to win a handful of medals.
The country has so far won 28 medals (5 gold, 10 silver, 13 bronze) across editions since the legendary Milkha Singh won a gold medal in the men’s 440 yard event in 1958.
Sekar Dhanalakshmi, who was scheduled to compete in the women’s 100m and 4x100m relays, and Aishwarya Babu, who was scheduled to compete in the long jump as well as the triple jump, were dropped from the original 36-member squad after failing doping tests who have shamed the country.
Dhanalakshmi would not have much luck in the 100m but her absence would be a blow to the women’s 4x100m relay team although India are not favorites for a medal in the presence of England, Jamaica, from Canada and Australia.
Aishwarya could have been a bronze medal contender with her national mark of 14.14m set at the Interstate Nationals last month.
Another member of the 4x100m relay race, MV Jilna was also withdrawn at the last minute after failing a doping test. The 4x100m relay team is therefore left with only four members in Dutee, Hima Das, Srabani Nanda and NS Simi.
The men’s marathon was held on Saturday and Indian Nitender Rawat finished 12th.