The Athletics Federation of India is hoping to win three medals in 2020 Olympics with the likes of star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and long jumper Murali Sreeshankar emerging as strong prospects, its deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair said on Friday.
In a presentation during AFI's Annual General Body Meeting here, Nair claimed that India's track and field athletes could clinch 1 silver and 2 bronze in next year's Olympics in Tokyo. He also projected India to get 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze from athletics in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
When he was later asked about the events from which India can win medals in Tokyo Games, he said, "We can win medals in men's javelin, men's long jump, mixed 4x400m relay and some chance in men's and women's 4x400m relay races."
The 21-year-old Neeraj, who is recuperating from an elbow surgery, is currently ranked ninth in the world. He won gold medals in both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games last year with efforts of 88.06m -- national record -- and 86.47m respectively.
He has emerged as a truly a world class athlete and a bright prospect for Indian athletic's elusive medal in athletics.
The 20-year-old Sreeshankar jumped 8.20m last year, which is the national record, though his season's best so far is 7.97m. He is currently ranked 21 in the world. The gold, silver and bronze winners in the 2016 Olympics had jumped 8.38m, 8.37m and 8.29m respectively.
The deputy chief coach also predicted better performance by Indian athletes in the 2022 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games as compared to 2018 editions.
The medal target in the 2022 Asian Games is 10 gold, 8 silver and 8 bronze as against 7 gold, 10 silver and 2 bronze won in 2018 edition in Jakarta.
The medal target for 2022 Commonwealth Games is 5 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze as against 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in the 2018 edition in Gold Coast.
AFI's Planning Commission Chairman Lalit Bhanot said that these medal projections can be realised only if the state associations take more responsibility in finding and grooming athletes, instead of depending on AFI alone.
"The state units will have to be pro-active. You should find out the talents and groom them, you have to have qualified coaches. The AFI cannot keep on doing all these, don't depend on AFI for everything," he said.
"The target should be for example 200 top javelin throwers, 400 top runners competing in 400m race like that, not only a few athletes at the elite level in each event. Only then we can achieve these targets for the Olympics," he said.
Newly appointed High Performance Director Volker Herrmann of Germany also made a presentation where he stressed on using scientific training methods, building strong foundation of athletes, imparting correct coaching according to the age of athletes, avoiding early specialisation and providing nutritious diet.
"Indian athletics is like a raw, uncut diamond of immense value but one that cannot be sold now. It is our duty to shape it," he said, sharing timelines for the Olympic Games in Tokyo (2020), Paris (2024) and Los Angeles (2028).
Herrmann, who took charge on July 1, emphasised on the need to place greater stress on quality of training rather than quantity. He also presented a case study of Sreeshankar and said that the Kerala long jumper is a bright prospect at the Olympics as he can come in the range of 8.40m if he is groomed properly and given right coaching.
Meanwhile, India's lone World Championships medallist long jumper Anju Bobby George and former 800m national record holder Sriram Singh launched the Indian athletics team uniform, which predominantly has royal blue colour and stripes that incorporate saffron, white and green.
This is the first time the Indian athletes will have a team uniform to wear at the international events. The uniform is designed by AFI's partner Shiv Naresh.