Rio-2016 Olympics: India hit maiden century of athletes for Olympics

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On Saturday evening, Muhammad Anas qualified for the Rio Olympics after clocking a national record 45.40 seconds in his 400m race at the Polish National championships in Bydgoszcz. Anas, who qualified for his first Olympics became the 100th Indian to do so for Rio. On Sunday, Anas was joined by two other athletes – Srabani Nanda in the women’s 200m and Ankit Singh in the men’s long jump – as well as archer Atanu Das in qualifying for Rio. With 103 athletes having qualified in all for the four year event – and more likely to add to the list before the end of the Olympic qualification period – Rio will see the biggest Indian contingent in history. The previous highest was, unsurprisingly, the 83 at the London Olympics in 2012. While the qualification of the 16-member women’s field hockey team undoubtedly help swell the number of participants, the number of individual qualifiers too has seen an increase since 2012. The biggest contribution has been through athletics. At London, 14 Indians had met the qualifying standards in 11 events. This time around 23 have made the mark in 16 events. Considering the women’s 4x400m relay team is likely to make the Olympics as well, (they are currently ranked 14th in the world with the top 16 qualifying), the total number of athletes who will participate at Rio will be at least 29. Injetti Srinivas, Director General of the Sports Authority of India says he was expecting as much. Srinivas says I had commissioned a report this to make a broad assessments of India’s performance prospects. “In the report we had expected between 110 to 120 Indians to qualify for the Rio Games. If we consider the six members of the 4x400m relay team to have qualified, our total number of entries will be 109, which is close to what we had predicted. In addition we are also expecting a couple of more athletes to qualify in sports like golf, ” says Srinivas. However whether the larger numbers of qualifiers will immediately translate into a better medal return than at London, which was India’s most successful in terms of medal count (two silver and four bronze) is uncertain. However it must be noted that in sports in which medals were won in London – shooting, wrestling, boxing and badminton -India will have more qualifiers in Rio in all but one case (boxing). The standard of qualifiers too has improved for the most part. It is true that in athletics, many qualifiers – Anas just about equaled the Rio standard – are not realistically expected to progress beyond the early rounds. However, there are several who rank high up in the international top lists this season and if not as medal hopefuls, surely final prospects. Sudha Singh (3000m steeplechase) and Lalita Babar (long distance runner) have exchanged national records with the latter a finalists at last
years World Championships. Shotputter Inderjeet Singh and discus thrower Vikas Gowda too have similar results to show.
In addition India has qualified the maximum possible entries in two men’s road events – the 20km race walk and the men’s marathon. Indeed in the 20km racewalk event, the country faces a problem of plenty with KT Irfan, who finished tenth in London as yet uncertain of making the three member squad despite meeting the Olympic qualification standard.

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