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India can surpass Tokyo Olympics medal tally in athletics at Paris Games: AFI president

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NewsDrum Desk
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Bhubaneswar, May 14 (PTI) India have the potential to surpass the single-medal achievement from the Tokyo Olympics in the track and field events at the Paris Games, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla said on Tuesday.

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At the Tokyo Games, Neeraj Chopra had become the first Indian track and field athlete to win a gold in the Olympics as he clinched the men's javelin event with a throw of 87.58m. He became only the second Indian to win an Olympic individual gold after shooter Abhinav Bindra, who stood on top of the podium during the 2008 Beijing Games.

"We can no doubt perform better in the Paris Olympics than in Tokyo. We can win more medal in Paris," Sumariwalla said in a press conference.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Chopra is expected to win a medal in Paris.

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"I had never in the past given any prediction of any event in which we can win a medal. But, if we our athletes performed their best (betters their personal best) in many events, we can win medals or finish in top four," he said, mentioning men's 4x400m relay, men's long jump and men's 3000m steeplechase, among others.

The AFI president also made it clear that except for Chopra, it will be mandatory for all the other athletes to participate in the National Inter-State Athletics Championships to be held in Panchkula from June 27 to 30 to get selected for the Paris Olympics.

"Except for Neeraj, all the other athletes will have to participate in the National Inter-State Championships," he said.

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AFI rules state that all the athletes will have to participate in the National Inter-State Championships if they have to get selected for major multi-sport events like the Olympics, Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games, unless the federation gives an exemption on the request of particular athletes or their coaches.

Asked whether Chopra taking part in the Federation Cup was taken impromptu or after detailed discussion, he said, "Every athlete will have to take part in the National Inter-State. But National Inter-State is clashing with the Paris Diamond League (which Chopra is taking part), which is very important for Neeraj considering that the Olympics will be held there.

"So, taking into account the federation rules, we gave him permission to take part in the Federation Cup (instead of National Inter-State)." Chopra has not taken part in any domestic competition since the Federation Cup in March 2021 and he will feature in the men's javelin final on Wednesday, marking his participation in a domestic event after three years.

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Sumariwalla also said that the AFI is expecting at least 35 track and field athletes to take part in the Paris Olympics. There were 26 track and field athletes in Tokyo Olympics.

"Already, 20 have qualified including the two relays and 11 athletes are within qualification slots according to World Athletics rankings. We are hoping that they (the 11) remained there and some more also qualify when the qualification window closes (on June 30).

"We are expecting to have at least 35 track and field athletes in Paris Olympics." There are two ways of track and field athletes making the Olympics cut -- direct qualification by breaching qualifying mark and through world rankings. PTI PDS PDS APA APA

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