The Asian Games postponement has come as a huge disappointment for few athletes but it has also taken away the dilemma of National Sports Federations (NSFs), which were forced to finalise separate teams for Asiad, Brimingham Commonwealth Games and the world events. The continental multi-sport showpiece, scheduled in Hangzhou for September 10-25, was on Friday postponed due to worsening pandemic situation in China, which is witnessing a surge in omicron variant cases. NSFs such as Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), Hockey India and Archery Association of India (AAI) are now gearing up to field their best teams at the CWG and the World Championships in their respective sports.
Since the gap between the CWG (July 28-August 8) and Asian Games (before postponement) was little over a month, the sports federations had decided to send separate teams at these two big-ticket events and at the World events lined up this season.
This was because asking the athletes to compete in back-to-back global events would have been very taxing for them. It was not ideal, physically and mentally, for athletes in tough competitions such as these.
Since the Asian Games also serve as an Olympic qualifying event for sports such as hockey (both men and women) and tennis (men’s and women’s singles), the federations had planned to send strong teams to Hangzhou and its ‘A’ teams to CWG.
The wrestling and archery federations had also planned in a way that their second-best athletes were to compete at the world events that are scheduled during the year and the best players would have competed at the CWG and the Asian Games.
However, now that one big event is off the calender, NSFs have devised new plans.
The WFI was to send its second-best wrestlers to World Championship in Serbia (September 10-18) and its top grapplers to CWG and Asian Games since the world event is not an Olympic qualifying event this year.
However, the WFI has now decided to send its best wrestlers to all the three big events and will pick the teams through trials.
“We will hold fresh trials for the Asiad in six Olympic categories. Once we know the dates, we will decide accordingly. Earlier, we had decided that we will send wrestlers who have finished second in recent trials (for CWG and Asiad) at the Worlds but now we will pick Indian team in all 10 categories, based on fresh trials,” WFI Assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told PTI.
“Also, for the upcoming UWW Ranking series events, we will allow the medal winners at the Asian Championship in Mongolia to compete. The categories in which we did not win medals, the WFI will decide which wrestler will compete since trials will not be held for UWW events,” he added.
As per UWW calendar, three ranking series events are lined up in Kazakhstan (June 2-5), Rome (June 22-25), Tunisia (July 14-17) before World Championship.
Hockey India had decided to field its ‘A’ team at CWG and best players in the Hangzhou Asian Games since Olympic berths will be at stake in both men’s and women’s events at the Asiad. The winners will earn the right to compete at 2024 Paris Olympics.
It is now mulling to field a mix of youth and experience in Birmingham CWG.
“Now that Asian Games are postponed, main team players can be considered for CWG but that depends upon deliberation with coaching staff which will take place soon,” said a top HI official, who did not wish to be named.
“It might be the case that there can be a mix of youth and experienced players in CWG squads.”
India’s top archers, including Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari and Jyothi Surekha, had stunningly failed to make the Indian team for Asian Games. Atanu had lost to Pravin Jadhav during the trials in Sonepat.
The top-four archers were selected to compete at the Asian Games and also the first three phases of World Cups in Antalya (April 17-24), Gwangju (May 16-22) and Paris (June 21-26).
The next best (5th-8th position) were selected to participate in the fourth phase of World Cup in Medellin (July 18-24).
However, the Archery Association may now change the plan.
“This is good news for us, it gives us more time to prepare.
Some of our top archers missed the cut, so they will get another opportunity.
“Now we can alter the original planning and give chances to the upcoming youngsters in the coming World Cups. A decision on this will be taken in our core committee meeting in a couple of days,” said AAI secretary general Pramod Chandurkar.
ATHLETICS AND BADMINTON
Indian athletics chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair said they have bigger goals in mind and are focussed on preparing the athletes for the 2024 Paris Games.
He hinted that there will be changes in training plan.
“We always have long term training plan. We even started the training plan for 2024 Paris Olympics from mid-October last year. These Asian Games and CWG are building blocks (for Olympics). But some changes will be there as the Asian Games is postponed,” Nair told PTI.
The postponement must be a relief for track and field athletes since they can breath easy with one less event in busy calendar. Now they can focus only on World Championships (July 15-24) in Eugene, USA and the Birmingham CWG.
Similarly, Badminton Association of India (BAI) secretary Sanjay Mishra said, “Of course the performance of the players will have to be assessed again. So we will try to find a window to have the trials again.” (With inputs from Tapan Mohanta, Philem Dipak Singh, SS Choudhury and Amit Kumar Das).
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