India rests hope on athletes

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> India's top athletes will join the nation's stuttering Olympic campaign from Wednesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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India's top athletes will join the nation's stuttering Olympic campaign from Wednesday, with hardly any realistic chance of winning a medal but hoping to at least put up a show worthy enough to be noticed. Barring ace long jumper Anju Bobby George, none of the other athletes appear to belong to the elite list to cause a stir in the Olympic arena which will see the world's big guns battle for glory. The Indian athletes have had an extensive build-up to the mega event but it remains to be seen whether they can lift the general pall of gloom that has descended on the Indian camp with one day after another going without a medal. Long wait An India-based British soldier Norman Pritchard has been the only one to win medals in athletics when he claimed two silver medals in the Paris Games in 1900, but a century has lapsed since any other athlete has made it to the medal podium. Seasoned shot putter Bahadur Singh will set the ball rolling for the Indians with men's shot put final scheduled on the opening day of athletic competitions at the Olympia Stadium. After a day of rest, the athletic action will resume at the Main Olympic Stadium from August 20 with India scheduled to take part in heptathlon, men's discus throw, women' discus throw and men's 400m run. Past performances There have been some great performances in the past like those of Milkha Singh, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, Sriram Singh and P T Usha, to speak of a few, who have come close to standing on the medal podium in Olympics. But with competitions becoming much stiffer these days, it would really need an outstanding performance to be able to even come within sniffing distance of a medal. India have fielded 19 athletes, including 14 women, for the Games with the selection being on the basis of those reaching the qualification marks. Medal hope With a bronze medal in the World Athletic Championship in Paris last year, long jumper Anju will be India's main medal hope in the Games. Anju, the flag bearer of the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony, is currently ranked fifth in the world and is hoping "to peak at the right time" -- her event is scheduled just a couple of days before the closing ceremony. The Indian champion has quite a few rivals to beat, including American star Marion Jones who is under a cloud related to drug abuse. The other notable rivals for the Indian are French world champion Eunice Barber, ranked joint fourth end-July with Anju, and a set of strong challengers from Russia, including world indoor champion and world number two Tatyana Lebedeva and world number one Tatyana Kotova. (PTI)

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