Bhubaneswar, July 5: As many as 13 defending champions, including Rio Olympic Games hammer throw gold medallist Dilshod Nazarov (Tajikistan) and Indians Tintu Luka (women’s 800m) and Vikas Gowda (men’s discus throw), will feature in the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships to be held at the Kalinga Stadium here from July 6.
The 35-year-old Nazarov, seeking his fourth successive Asian crown, found a season’s best of 77.81m in finishing fourth at the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge in Ostrava (Czech Republic) last week. The Tajik giant, who has three gold among six Asian Championship medals and three Asian Games gold medals in his collection, won Olympic gold with a throw of 78.68m last year.
Two women – sprinter Viktoriya Zyabkina (Kazakhstan) and pole vaulter Li Ling – are out to complete a hat-trick each of Asian Championship gold medals. Viktoriya Zyabkina won 200m gold in Pune (2013) with a time of 23.62 second and in Wuhan (2015) with 23.09. She has a sub-23 time in 2017, stopping the clock at 22.81 seconds at the Almaty National Cup in May.
After a silver in Kobe in 2011, Li Ling won her first continental gold in Pune in 2013. She pegged the Asian record at 4.66m when she won the event the last time at Wuhan. The 27-year-old vaulted 4.50m in the Chinese city of Jian in May this year.
Qatar’s 26-year-old Femi Seun Ogunode (Qatar) will have to rediscover his form to be able to retain the glamorous sprint double that he claimed in the last edition of the Asian Championships in Wuhan. He blazed the track with two sub-10 runs in the 100m including a continental record of 9.91seconds in 2015.
However, he may have ceded ground to Andrew Fisher (Bahrain) and Barakat Al Harthi (Oman) who won silver and bronze medals respectively at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in May last. Fisher clocked 10.16 seconds and Al Harthi 10.35 while Ogunode finished a seventh in 11.46 seconds, a far cry from his 2017 best of 10.13 which he scripted in Doha in April.
Bahrain’s El Hasan El Abbassi, 33, may also have to draw on his vast experience to retain the 10,000m he won in Wuhan in a time of 28:50.71. He appears to have been focusing on road running this year and may have conceded pole position to compatriot Abraham Cheroben who finished 10th in the Olympic Games last year and won the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in 27:38.76.
The others who are looking to repeat their gold medal winning feats from Wuhan 2015 are Japenese 400m hurdler Yuta Konishi, Bahrain’s 3000m steeplechaser John Kibet Koech and Chinese Taipei’s javelin thrower Huang Shih-Feng in the men’s events and United Arab Emirates’ 10000m Alia Saeed Mohammed, Chinese shot putter Guo Tianqian and her compatriot hammer thrower Liu Tingting in the women’s events.
Olympic medallists like woman steeplechaser Ruth Jebeth (Bahrain), high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshi (Qatar) and woman triple jumper Olga Rypakova (Kazakhstan) have pulled out of the competition, leaving the stage for the winners of their events in Odisha2017 to qualify for the IAAF World Championships to be held in London next month.
(Courtesy: Asian Athletics Championships)