India's National Open Athletics Championships postponed once more

The National Open Athletics Championships, originally scheduled to start from September 20, was to be the starting block in India’s athletics calendar.

By Subhayan Dutta

Indian athletes will have to wait longer to get into the competitive mode after the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) postponed the National Open Athletics Championships due to the COVID pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak had forced the AFI to suspend the Indian Grand Prix in March and the Federation Cup was called off soon after. That was followed by the IAAF (World Athletics) suspending all Olympic qualifiers until December.

The National Open Athletics Championships was supposed to be the first meet in the modified calendar.

Though athletes have returned to training by taking necessary precautions and adhering to the COVID protocols stated by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), hosting a tournament is still a challenge.

"The competition committee held a meeting to reassess the possibility of organising competitions from September 12 and decided to defer the start of national-level competitions,” the AFI has said.

“It had been hoping to resume competition on September 12 with an AFI Grand Prix in Patiala," it added.

राष्ट्रीय ओपन एथेलेटिक्स के लिए तैयार मैदान

With the National Open Athletics Championships initially planned to be held from September 20 to 24 and the Federation Cup due to start from October 5 to 9, athletes had started working out routines to return to competition.

However, AFI president Adille J. Sumariwalla has now asked the athletes and their coaches to amend their plans.

"It would be advisable if the coaches redraw the training schedules of athletes,” Sumariwalla said.

“We are now looking at October end or early November for some competitions for seniors and late November for juniors.

"At no point of time do we want to risk the health of our athletes by rushing them into competition with uncertainty and doubt uppermost in their minds," he added.

With the qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics set to resume from December 2020, India’s athletics contingent has a tricky road up ahead.

India has secured six Olympic spots across four events in athletics so far, with stars like Dutee Chand, Hima Das and others yet to make the cut for the Summer Games.