Veteran discus thrower Seema Punia on Tuesday qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a gold wining effort of 63.72m on the final day of the National Inter-State Athletics Championships in Patiala. The 37-year-old Punia, who had won a silver in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games, breached the Olympic qualifying mark of 63.50m. She became the 12th individual Indian athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Games.Also Read - Neeraj Chopra Wins Gold: Twitterverse Shower Praise As Tokyo Olympic Medallist Reigns Supreme At Kuortane Games, See Tweets
Punia had reached Patiala from Minsk, where she had taken part in Belarus Open Championship last week, in the wee hours on Sunday. She went past the 60m mark on four of her five legal throws and found the power to breach the Olympic qualifying mark in her fourth try. She will be taking part in her fourth Olympics after 2004, 2012, and 2016 editions of the Games. Also Read - Olympic Medallist Neeraj Chopra Clinches His First Gold of 2022 In Kuortane Games
Without a world ranking, since she was nursing a glutes (muscles of buttocks) injury, Punia was taking part in only her third competition since the 2018 Asian Games. Also Read - Olympic Medallist Mirabai Chanu Misses Out On National Record Despite Clinching Gold At Khelo India Event, Watch Video
She threw 62.64m in the Federation Cup here in March and after managing 58.62 in Minsk on June 25, she secured her ticket to Tokyo Games with her first throws of over 63m since August 2004 in Kiev.
“I know I can throw farther with my training but I was wary of aggravating the issue with my glutes muscles. I have worked hard over the last two and half years since the Asian Games and am happy that I could secure qualification today,” Punia said.
“I will consult the Athletics Federation of India and draw up my training program for the Olympic Games,” she added.
Punia will be the second Indian woman to take part in the event in the Tokyo Olympics after national record holder Kamalpreet Kaur, who threw the iron disc to a distance of 66.59m in the Indian Grand Prix 4 on Monday last.
Kaur did not start in the event on Tuesday, though her name was there initially.
Star sprinter Hima Das, who sustained a hamstring injury on Saturday while running 100m heats is set to miss the Tokyo Olympics as the women’s 4x100m of which she was a part earlier clocked 44.15 seconds, well outside the targeted time of 43.03 seconds.
Hima also tried to compete in the women’s 200m final, chasing 22.80 seconds to qualify for the Olympics but finished fifth in 25.03 seconds. PD Anjali (Kerala) and Lovepreet Singh (Punjab) were the winners of the women’s and men’s 200m sprints in 24.01 seconds and 21.04 seconds respectively.
Besides the 4x400m mixed relay squad, Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m Steeplechase), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (men’s shot put), Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh (men’s javelin throw), M Sreeshankar (men’s long jump), Kamalpreet Kaur (women’s discus Throw) and 20km race walkers KT Irfan, Sandeep Kumar and Rahul Rohila (men) and Bhawna Jat and Priyanka Goswami (women) have already qualified for the Olympics.
There is the expectation that some others like MP Jabir (men’s 400m hurdles), Dutee Chand (women’s 100m and 200m), Annu Rani (women’s javelin throw) will make it to Olympics on the basis of their world ranking.
Moreover, the men’s and women’s relay teams, currently ranked 13th and 16th on the Road to Tokyo list, may raise the size of the Indian athletics team.
Tuesday midnight is the deadline of the Olympics qualification period and the World Athletics will publish the list of qualified athletes for the Tokyo Games on Thursday.
The AFI’s selection committee will meet on Saturday to pick the Indian team for the Olympics.
With World Athletics responding positively to the Athletics Federation of India request to consider the 3:01.89 clocked in the 4x400m heats on Friday, the men’s team’s 13th place was restored ahead of Germany, Poland and Czech Republic.
Running with a changed combination after Hima Das pulled out, the Indian women’s 4x100m relay quartet of AK Daneshwari, Archana Suseendran, S Dhanalakshmi and Dutee Chand a time of 44.15 seconds which was a meet record but well short of its target (43.03 seconds) that could have earned the team a berth in the Olympic Games.
(With PTI Inputs)