Delhi athletes face mixed results at National Athletics Championships

- July 3, 2024

Tejaswin Shankar misses Olympic mark, but national relay team runner Amoj Jacob hopes to ride on recent consistent performances despite failing to win medal in the nationals

BELOW PAR: Tejaswin Shankar, who competes in high jump, missed the standard set for qualifying for Olympics

There was hope and despair for Delhi athletes aiming to achieve new heights during the 63rd National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships that concluded on June 30 at Panchkula (Haryana). 

The four-day competition was the last leg to book tickets for the Paris Olympic Games. 

Delhi’s Asian Games medallist Tejaswin Shankar, middle distance runner Rahul and race walker Vikash Singh were among prominent Indian athletes looking to impress the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) panel. 

Delhi’s quarter-miler Amoj Jacob was also in the race to cement his place in the national relay squad for the quadrennial Games starting July 26. 

Shankar and Rahul are nearly out of the race for the Olympics, while there is a ray of hope for Jacob and Singh to make the Indian athletics contingent for Paris. 

The qualification period for the Olympic Games started last year and June 30 was the deadline to achieve the standards set by World Athletics to compete in track and field competition in the Olympics.  

If coping with hot and humid north Indian weather in June was challenging for Singh in the men’s 20km race walk, failing to raise the bar in high jump proved a decisive factor for Shankar.

Shankar’s main goal in Panchkula was to log a jump of at least 2.26m to stay on course to improve his Road to Paris ranking. Shankar finished second with a height of 2.21m in Panchkula, thereby failing in his endeavour.  

Singh finished third in the men’s 20km race walk. His time was 1:27:21. 

“I wanted to do better in Panchkula. But the race didn’t go on expected lines,” Singh said in a post-race interaction in Panchkula. 

“All I can say I wasn’t able to sustain my efforts in the closing stages of the gruelling race.”

The Delhi race walker was one of the Indian athletes to achieve the Paris Olympic Games automatic qualification in 20km race walk in 2023. 

“I enjoyed good health last year. I was expecting good results this season (2024) too. But things didn’t go as planned,” Delhi’s international race walker added. 

Singh now has to wait for AFI panel’s nod to take the flight to Paris.

Jacob, who has been a key relay runner of the national team, finished fifth in the individual men’s 400m race. He clocked 46.44 seconds. His consistent performance this year at the international level including World Athletics Relays in Bahamas in May, would give him an advantage over other athletes when the AFI selection panel sits down to finalise the team for Paris. 

Plenty of exposure

With support from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), a technical wing of the Union sports ministry, several Delhi athletes who were members of the national camp got ample international exposure to polish their skills in the months leading up to the 2024 Olympic Games. 

The Olympic probables got ample opportunity to travel across the globe to improve their Road to Paris ranking points as well as achieve automatic qualification marks in their respective events. 

The core group of middle and long distance runners, including Rahul, were based out of Colorado Springs in USA to prepare for the Olympic Games.

Delhi athletes
HOPE: Indian relay team member Amoj Jacob is relying on his recent performances to help him get through to Olympics

Under the Union sports ministry’s TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), Shankar too got the opportunity to train and compete on foreign soil. But he was heartbroken after Panchkula’s results as he wasn’t able to qualify for the Olympics.

Singh was also a member of the core group of race walkers and went to South Africa for training in February. He was also a member of the national team that competed at the World Race Walking Team Championships in April in Turkey.

Rahul, who finished outside the medal bracket in the men’s 1500m in Panchkula, said he wasn’t able to adjust to the time zone as he was training in the USA. 

“I wasn’t able to click,” Rahul said. He finished fourth in the 1500m with a time of 3:44.92.