AFI Media

Tirupati, November 22: Long jumper Shaili Singh and high jumper Aaditya Raghuvanshi, who set National records in the National Junior Athletics Championships in Guntur earlier this month, will be among those who will seek to showcase consistency when they compete in the 17th MILO National Inter-District Athletics Meet beginning here on Saturday.

Bengaluru Urban district’s Shaili Singh set the girls under-16 long jump National record at 6.15m, having trained with coach Bobby George after she had finished fifth with 4.93m in the girls under-14 competition in NIDJAM in Visakhapatnam in 2017 when she represented Lucknow. As a 6m jumper, she will be in a league of her own and will have to motivate herself to deliver the best.

Bhopal’s Aaditya Raghuvanshi, who set the meet record at 1.86m here last year, jumped 1.95m in Guntur earlier this month. His winning effort was better than the 1.92m that the under-16 champion Sandeep Kumar had managed in the National Junior Athletics Championships. And that 1.95m clearance has caught the eye of the coaches.

There will also be attention on Jabalpur long jumper Sohail Akhtar who leapt 6.90m last year, just 5cm short of the meet record. Having been with the Army Boys Company, the lad who hails from Seoni district, won the title in Guntur with a 6.91m effort. He will face competition his State-mate from Bhopal, Sandeep Singh, who was 12cm behind in Guntur.

Ranchi’s Ashakiran Barla, the defending girls under-14 600m champion, has shown improvement in the year gone by. She won in a meet record time of 1:38.01 last year and the National Junior Athletics Championship earlier this month in 1:33.78. Expectations of another good race are high as she can be pushed by Meerut’s Tanvi Malik and Dharwad’s Priyanka Madivalappa Olekar.

The girls under-16 200m is another event in which all three medallists from Guntur will be competing here. In fact, with as many as three dozen athletes who won medals in Guntur and quite a few medallists from the last edition heading to the Tarakarama Stadium in the Sri Venkateswara University campus, the quality of competition is expected to be high.

More than 4500 boys and girls in two age-groups (under-16 and under-14) from 500-plus districts will make the edition of NIDJAM the largest single-discipline sports meet in the country. After a busy opening day on which qualification rounds in several events will take place, a dozen finals are scheduled for the second day of the meet while the remaining 18 will be contested on Monday.

AFI High Performance Director Volker Hermann said the Federation plans to identify 600 athletes from here to undergo training at various academies around the country. “With the right training and impetus, many of these athletes could go on to compete in the 2028 and 2032 Olympic Games,” he said.

AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said the prospect of finding raw new talent in the Federation’s flagship talent-scouting programme was exciting. “We take pride in the fact that we are the first National Sports Federation to embark on such an ambitious programme that covers more than 50,000 athletes across 500 districts in the country,” he said.

As the teenagers from far and near patiently went through the process of securing UID cards issued by the Federation after verification of their documents and an examination by doctors on Thursday and Friday, the air of confidence they wore would convince everyone that India’s track and field sport at the grassroots level is on firm footing.

MILO NIDJAM 2019 will feature five events each – 100m, 600m, High Jump, Long Jump and Shot Put – under-14 boys and girls have while the under-16 boys and girls will vie for honours in 100m, 200m, 400m, 1000m, 100m Hurdles, High Jump, Long Jump, Shot Put, Discus Throw and Javelin Throw.