Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will return to action after a year-long injury lay-off when the 59th National Open Athletics Championships begins in Ranchi on Thursday. Neeraj, who had clinched gold medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games, has not taken part in any competition in more than a year since throwing 83.90m at the Services Athletics Championships in Jalahalli on September 19 last year. The 21-year-old was training in Potchefstroom, South Africa, when it was diagnosed that his elbow injury needed surgery in May last year.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games less than 10 months away, Neeraj will be keen to show that his rehabilitation has progressed on expected lines.
"I really want to get back to the competition mode and since this is the last competition of the season, I want to use this event to get into the feeling of competition. I had spoken to my doctors and they have said I am okay to compete," he said.
"I am feeling good. Much better now. I started training in Patiala few weeks back and throws are going well in training."
The meet will be an opportunity for Indian athletes to not only perform well and secure ranking points but also try and match the stiff qualification standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Besides Neeraj, the focus will also be on sprinters Muhammed Anas Yahiya and VK Vismaya, long jumper Sreeshankar, metric miler Jinson Johnson, woman javelin thrower Annu Rani, sprinter Dutee Chand as well as shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, to name a few.
Men's 400m national record holder Muhammed Anas and woman quartermiler Vismaya were part of the 4x400m relay men's and women's teams which failed to reach the finals at the recently-concluded World Championships in Doha.
Annu Rani had broken the national record and entered the women's javelin throw final at the Worlds and will be eagar to produce another superlative performance.
Dutee had finished seventh in the women's 100m heats at the World Athletics Championships and will hope to do better here.
The event will also provide chance to others who are trying to get into the National squad. Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has rejected the entries of 46 athletes, including 37 men and nine women, who were seeking to represent Manipur despite not belonging to the state.
At its annual general meeting in Agra earlier this year, the Federation had warned all states units not to encourage such practices.
Besides, a number of athletes from Karnataka have been accommodated as AFI entries since the Federation had decided to suspend the Karnataka Athletics Association for delaying the intimation to not host the National Open in Bengaluru due to non-availability of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.