Inderjeet, Poovamma to lead Indian athletics campaign at SAF Games

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) Asian champion shot putter Inderjeet Singh and star athlete M.R. Poovamma are among the prominent names in the 68-member squad announced by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the 12th South Asian Federation (SAF) Games to be held in Guwahati and Shilling from February 5-16.

Apart from Inderjeet and Poovamma, who won gold in the women’s 4x400m relay at the 2014 Asian Games, the Indian squad also includes Olympian shot putter Omprakash Singh Karhana. The squad comprises of 36 men and 32 women athletes.

The athletics events at the SAF are scheduled to be held from February 9-12 at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati. India topped the medal tally in athletics in the previous edition held at Dhaka in 2010, winning 29 medals overall, including 10 gold medals, 11 silver and 8 bronze. The Indian team is expected to face competition from Sri Lanka, which finished second in the medals tally in track and field in the 2010 Games.

This time, the athletics competition will witness 20 events in the men’s category and 17 in the women’s section.

“The 12th SAF Games is special because it’s being hosted in Guwahati and we hope to notch up maximum number of medals at home. Though the competition is being held at a time when our elite athletes are in the midst of their training for 2016 Olympics, we’ve tried to select the best possible team under the situation. The team is a good mix of experience and youth and we hope they will return with a rich haul of medals from the 2016 SAF Games,” AFI chief Adille Sumariwalla said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, preparations are in full swing at the various national camps and a number of elite athletes who have qualified for Rio, are also expected to be part of the action at the SAF Games. The national squad athletes for the 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relays for both men and women under coach Iuri Ogorodnik returned from a 69-day training stint in Turkey recently and will reach Guwahati from the national camp in Thiruvananthapuram.

The leading long and triple jumpers in the country who are currently training under Romanian coach Bedros Bedrosian in Thiruvananthapuram are scheduled to participate first in the SAF Games and then in the Asian Indoor Championships to be held at Doha, Qatar from February 19. Inderjeet is scheduled to reach Guwahati directly from his training centre in the US.

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