Indian athletes eye Olympics with confidence

India can look forward to the Olympics with confidence after they followed up their Commonwealth Games success in athletics with an encouraging showing at the Asian Games.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 27 Nov 2010, 9:39 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:05 AM

The country has always excelled in sports such as shooting, field hockey and wrestling, but is now making waves in track and field, particularly in women’s events.

India won a total of 11 medals — including five gold — in Aoti Main Stadium with the money the government pumped in to improve their prospects paying handsome dividends.

Preeja Sreedharan won the women’s 10,000 metres and added 5,000m silver on the final night of track and field action Friday.

India also took both gold medals in the 400m hurdles events through Joseph Ganapathiplackal and Ashwini Akkunji, while Sudha Singh claimed the women’s 3,000m steeplechase title.

They capped their athletics showing with victory in the women’s 4x400m relay, with Akkunji running the third leg.

There was silver for Kavita Raut in the women’s 10,000m, plus a bronze in the 5,000m.

In the women’s 800m, Tintu Lukka took bronze and Pramila Gudandda finished third in the heptathlon.

Krishna Poonia, who won India’s first Commonwealth Games athletics gold in 52 years by leading a stunning host nation clean-sweep in the women’s discus in New Delhi last month, also took bronze in Guangzhou.

Sreedharan put India’s success down to a good coaching programme and government funding.

“Our coach is very good and our government is very supportive,” she said.

Sreedharan and Raut said their coach, Nikolai Snesarev, had overseen a major improvement in their 5,000m times.

Ganapathiplackal trained his sights on the 2012 Olympics in London, refusing to get carried away with his success at the Asian Games.

“I’m very happy about the first men’s gold medal in athletics for India. But I should not be over-confident because I must now focus on the 2012 London Olympic Games,” he said after his 400m hurdles win.

Speaking last month at the Commonwealth Games, organising committee secretary general Lalit Bhanot said the success was the payback from government money invested in the sport.

Bhanot added that he expected the support to continue with the Olympics less than two years away.

But there is a potential fly in the ointment after Snesarev, the coach of India’s middle and long distance runners, revealed he had yet to be offered a new contract with the old one expiring on November 30.

Speaking after silver and bronze medals for Sreedharan and Raut in the women’s 5,000m, he said he was “dedicated to these runners.”

When asked about their future, Snesarev said: “I will answer you when they hire me. It depends on who will be working with them.

“I want to stay and I want to prepare these athletes and there are several more very talented athletes.

“If we continue we can improve to Olympic level, with athletes in Olympic finals and even winning medals, these two girls especially.”

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