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May 13, 2024

Neeraj Chopra and Kishore Jena Secure Direct Entry into Fed Cup Finals

Indian javelin stars Neeraj Chopra and Kishore Jena are set to skip the qualifying rounds and head straight to the Federation Cup finals on May 15. Both athletes, having surpassed the minimum qualification mark of 75m multiple times, earned direct entries into the event. Chopra, the Olympic and world champion, recently showcased his prowess at the Doha Diamond League, securing second place with a throw of 88.38m. On the other hand, Jena, the Asian Games silver medalist, faced disappointment in his Diamond League debut, with a best throw of 76.31m.

Joining them in the finals is DP Manu, aiming to qualify for the upcoming Paris Olympics by breaching the 85.50m mark. Radhakrishnan Nair, head coach of Indian athletics, highlighted that nine athletes, including Chopra and Jena, will compete directly in the finals, while the rest will undergo qualifying rounds.

Chopra’s participation in the Federation Cup marks his first competitive appearance on home soil in three years, a move welcomed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). Despite his global success, Chopra’s absence from domestic events since 2021 raised concerns. However, the AFI’s insistence on his participation in a domestic event before the Paris Games indicates their strategic planning for his preparation.

Jena, the Asian Games medallist, and Chopra are expected to make their appearances in the Federation Cup, adding excitement to the event. Although Chopra’s arrival from Doha is delayed, his presence is eagerly anticipated.

Concerns over injuries surfaced as Rajesh Ramesh, a member of the men’s 4x400m relay squad, withdrew during a qualifying heat in Bahamas. Nair clarified that Ramesh’s injury is not severe and that he is expected to resume training soon. Arokia Rajiv, who replaced Ramesh, also faced fitness issues but helped secure a Paris ticket for the Indian team.

Looking ahead, Nair outlined the team’s preparation plans, with athletes set to train in Spala, Poland, for four weeks before heading to Paris for the Olympics, which begin on August 1st.

Despite setbacks, the AFI remains hopeful about the mixed 4x400m relay team’s Paris qualification. With only two slots remaining, the team will participate in the Asian Relays in Bangkok, aiming for a time below 3 minutes 14 seconds.

In a strategic move, the AFI is gearing up for the long term, aiming to win multiple medals in the 2036 Olympics. This plan, irrespective of India’s bid to host the Games, underscores the federation’s commitment to long-term development and success in athletics.

As Indian athletes gear up for the Federation Cup finals and beyond, their performances will not only shape their immediate future but also contribute to India’s aspirations in global athletics for years to come.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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