India’s stellar show at the track and field events at the Asian Games was unexpected even for some of its biggest followers. The 19 medals include a few firsts and some national records as well. The success hasn’t come by overnight.
“This is a process we started six years go. We are on our way to winning Olympic medals now.” Adille Sumariwalla, President of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) told News18. “Winning Olympic medals is no longer a dream for us.”
Sumariwalla also said that it would be unfair to put pressure on the athletes right away for Tokyo 2020. “Neeraj is someone that javelin throwers worldwide are talking about at international meets,” he said.
“It’s important to not get carried away by the gold. Remember we won ten silvers as well which could have been golds had Bahrain and Qatar not had African athletes competing for them.”
The jubilation in India’s athletics circles is understandable. And why not? Numbers apart, the huge positive for India is that all these athletes are young. Neeraj Chopra, Hima Das, Dutee Chand are all under-23, and none of them have reached the peak of their athletic prowess. Which is why the Athletics Federation of India will have to realize that the grooming and mentoring of these athletes in the lead up to Tokyo 2020 is extremely crucial.
Rules like not allowing non-campers in relay events, and letting athletes bring their personal coaches to national camps have been welcomed. AFI knows all too well that it takes just one case of doping or age fraud to undo all the good work done in all these years. India is yet to win an Olympic medal from a track and field event.