AFI plans to begin season in September, announces tentative calendar

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Saturday decided to tentatively start the 2020 season’s competitions in September provided the health crisis, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is settled by then.

The Athletics Federation of India also deferred its elections and extended the term of its office bearers during a Special General Meeting that was held online, a first among the national sports bodies.

Incumbent president Adille Sumariwalla was elected for his second term in April 2016, and the AFI was to hold the polls last month in its Annual General Meeting, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the federation to postpone the elections.

The decision taken during the first ever online meeting by any National Sports Federation (NSF) will also depend on the guidelines of the government.

The pandemic has forced the national and international sports bodies to either postpone or cancel their events.

According to the tentative calendar, the season will start with the first Indian Grand Prix on September 12 while three senior national championships — Open Nationals, Federation Cup and Inter-State — will be squeezed in less than a two-month period starting September 20.

The Open Nationals (September 20-24) will be followed by Senior Federation Cup (October 5-9) and Senior Inter-State Championships (October 29 to November 2).

The National Inter-District Junior Athletics Meets (NIDJAM), which is touted as the world’s biggest talent hunt programme for single sport, is planned to be held as the season-ending event from December 4-6.

According to AFI’s earlier calendar drawn up before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federation Cup was to be held in April (in Patiala), followed by National Inter-State in June (in Bengaluru) and Open Nationals in August (in Chennai).

High Performance Director Volker Hermann, Chief Coach Bahadur Singh and Deputy Chief Coach Radhakrishnan Nair shared the competition calendar that envisioned the resumption of domestic events in September.

“We had planned for competition in two phases but have had to draw up in one, delayed phase,” AFI Planning Committee Chairman Lalit Bhanot said during the online meeting which was attended by IOA chief Narinder Batra.

“There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” he said, referring to the thought behind the training and competition plan for the elite athletes.

Bhanot said the decision to postpone the Olympic Games would benefit a lot of young Indian athletes as they will get matured and gain in experience.

“Of course, some of the older athletes took maximum load in preparation of Tokyo 2020 and may find it hard.

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