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The season-ending National Open Athletics Championships, the 11th national-level track and field competition this year, is expected to be springboard from which many fresh faces will be launched in the absence of those who competed for India in the Olympic Games in Tokyo earlier this year.
With an eye on the championship, Railways has entered the largest contingent of 87 athletes, including 43 women, while Services' 57-member all-male squad is the second largest ahead of All India Police which will field 50 athletes, including 24 women in the five-day competition in the spanking new Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Hanamkonda here.
It is the second National competition in Warangal in two years, having hosted the National Cross-Country Championships in January 2020. The Telangana Athletics Association and the district administration of Warangal have left no stone unturned to ensure that the competition is held according to the Athletics Federation of India SOP and for Covid-19 protocols.
A number of athletes will be looking to make a mark while most of those who competed in the Olympic Games have chosen to rest and recover. The 2018 Asian Games Triple Jump gold medallist Arpinder Singh could be the biggest draw in the men's events. But VK Elakkiadasan and Shanmuga Srinivas Nalubothu, India's fastest 200m sprinter this year, battle in the half-lapper can be very interesting.
Muhammed Anees Yahiya and Yugant Shekhar Singh's rivalry at the Long Jump pit will be worth tracking. In the absence of teen sensation World U20 silver medalist Shaili Singh, the likes of Priyanka Kerketta, Sherin Abdul Gafoor and Nandini Agasara can make the women's Long Jump competition very intense. Similarly, in the women's Hammer Throw, long-standing rivals Manju Bala and Sarita R Singh can also produce a keen contest.
Summy Kaliravan, part of the mixed relay squad that won a 4x400m medal in the World U20 Championships, may be up against Olympian V Revathi. Race Walker Bhawna Jat, who also competed in Tokyo2020, Discus Thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon and sprinters Archana Suseendran, Himashree Roy and C Kanimozhi are some familiar names.
There will be considerable attention on the 15-year-old High Jumper Pavana Nagaraj, who has a personal best of 1.73m, but it will be Tripura sprinter Priyanka Bhowmick who will claim the credit of being the youngest athlete in the competition at just 14 years of age.